Monday, September 30, 2013

Red Currant Jam

As usual I was doing my weekly grocery shopping in a supermarket here, came across a packet of red currants- red delicious edible small rubies. Now, I don’t know what drew my attention towards them- the colour with which it was glowing or the fact it was way cheaper than most of the other berries displayed out there. I picked it up, and then the first thing that came to my mind was making red currant jelly or jam out of it. I came back home then I put the music on at youtube and then started slowly taking out other things from my "haat-bazaar" bag.

After I had put all the vegetables in refrigerator making and creating spaces in between, I put red currants over my window sill( if you have been with me over these couple of years, you do realize that’s the most active part of this blog, I happen to take almost all the pictures for this blog over there).

And I thought they indeed look very pretty, like scattered priceless red rubies. These red rubies were looking so delicious that I couldn’t resist the temptation and popped couple of them in my mouth, but wait, it turns out they are sour, I mean very sour. So, I was right, there is no other way I can imagine eating them, so it is red currant jam for sure. I was skeptical; really don’t know how this will be received by my folks. But it seems so far they have tried to include in every possible way, over breads, with biscuits, over Oreo or with mascarpone cheese, with ice-cream topping and with yogurt shake, milk shake and well I don’t need to tell now that it’s well almost finished.

Then suddenly I realized ok I have to write the recipe here, in case somebody else is having a tempting time in super-markets to try them, to all those don’t fret or shy away, red-currant jelly or jam can really do wonder to your mundane breakfast table, trust me on that or there is always a better way of using it up with masala lamb steaks the more traditional way.

Red Currant Jam
Recipe requirements
250 Gms of red currant
250 Gms of granulated sugar
1 tsp of lemon juice


  1. Wash well red currants in running water. With red currants no need to pluck the stalks, just put all in the simmering pot and soon it will be all mushy and watery.
  2. Now put them in a large pot and let it simmer. Just press gently with spatula so that red currant turns into mushy texture. Leave it for cooking.
  3. After about 10-15 mints when they release water add in sugar and mix well. Let it come to one rolling boil and then put it to simmer. Discard the white froth which will be formed from time to time.
  4. After about 10-15 mints when the red currants have all mixed well with sugar. Turn off the flame. Add in lemon juice and stir. Remove it from the flame.
  5. Sieve through a soft muslin cloth or a cotton towel. This way seeds can be discarded. Collect the juice. You can do this step overnight if you are using more quantities. I generally don’t wait and like to strain out the entire pulp using a tea strainer in several small batches.
  6. Now put small quantities in a strainer and press it forcefully so that you can collect maximum pulp out of it. Discard the residue that is left after wards.
  7. In a large bowl after collecting all the red currant pulp, mix it all well. It still will be warm.
  8. Meanwhile you are collecting the red currant pulp, sterilize a glass jar or wash them very well with soap water and then pop it in oven for 3-4 mints till it gets dry. And don’ forget to take it out.
  9. Now fill in the red currant jam in to the sterilized jar.
  10. Once it gets cooled refrigerate it for best results. Consume within 6-7 days for good results.

Note- Many jam recipes use pectin as a setting agent, I have never used that so can’t tell about it. But when ever I have used lemon juice, it has quite worked for me so far. This is one of those jam recipes one wants to make again, and again and it’s scrumptiously delicious.

Happy Cooking Friends

Friday, September 27, 2013

Victoria Sponge Cake

It seems I haven’t posted a cake recipe for a while. Actually what happened, I baked apple muffin last week, and then couple of days ago whole-meal  banana blueberry bread with this recipe. Now, this baking spree, reminded me that there is a Victoria sponge cake recipe resting in my draft. So, here it is a cake recipe for this weekend. This is one of those English desserts which sets the mood for a relaxed weekend and of course have it with a cup of tea.

I think I have liked light spongy cakes minus the crème and all that glitters, and there was even a recipe with mango syrup- Mango flavoured sponge cake .This Victoria sponge cake recipe is quite similar to that but stands out as it is completed with jam and crème frosting, making it even more fulfilling.There are possibly many recipe out in net, basic rule is to use equal measure of butter and flour to be precise, sometimes to which, I don't like to follow strictly.And we often use cooking oil in place of butter which is easy to fold with cake batter.These days butter spreads are available which are less of butter and more of vegetable oils, one can even use that as well.I have used both - cooking oil and butter spread for this recipe.

Now I do keep left-over cakes in fridge as with all that crème toppings and jam, I don’t risk the spoilage and it does add up to the moisture of the cake. Well, of course if there is no left-over there is no need to store them in fridge. Just take them out at least half an hour before you may like to consume it, have it with drizzle of honey or any other sauce of your preference.

This was well received by my folks. Without further additions, let’s jump to the recipe now

Victoria Sponge cake
Recipe requirements

  • 2 cups of self raising flour
  • 3 normal size free range eggs
  • 4 heaped tbs of butter spread
  • ½ cup of corn oil or sunflower oil
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • ¼ tsp of baking soda
  • 4-5 heaped tbs of thick yogurt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • About a tub of double cream
  • 1/2 cup of icing sugar or as required
  • About 1 cup of jam-strawberry or raspberry jam


  1. Take self raising flour or premium cake flour in a mixing bowl. If possible sieve in well beforehand. Now add in baking powder and baking soda to this.
  2. In a big separate mixing bowl mix well sugar, oil and butter spread very well. Now add in egg one at a time, folding the egg well until the mixture turns out light in colour and fluffy. Use other two eggs similarly. Take time to fluff each as this provides the sponginess to the cake.
  3. Now add in yogurt and mix well. Add in vanilla essence.
  4. Use about quarter cup of flour mixture and mix well with the wet ingredient mixture of egg+sugar+oil+yogurt.Use up left-over flour mixture similarly.
  5. Now preheat an oven at 170 deg C. Prepare the cake tin by dusting off flour and coating it well.
  6. I have used two small round cake baking tins. Pour the cake batter equally in two small rounds. You can even use large Bundt pan for this, just check the temperature and time for baking then.
  7. Place these two cake tins in the middle rack of the oven. Bake these two cakes about 20-25 mints, take them out and let it cool off. Please refer your oven settings for baking purpose as each oven-make is slightly different. And you may use this recipe in microwave also, refer microwave oven tutorials.
  8. After they have cooled, flip them out from the cake tin.
  9. Prepare the sponge cake toppings. Take about a tub of double cream and add in 1/2  cup of icing sugar to it. Mix and blend well till they form soft peaks, check for the sweetness, if required add in more. Sometimes I also use crème fraiche as well, to that I have to add little bit of more icing sugar.you may just have it with plain whipped cream and strawberry jam as well.

  1. Now cut the baked cakes into half, making it three layered. Now take strawberry jam.Smear the jam over each cut cake layers and then put the crème all over it. Now do similarly with the other layer and at the end put the last cake layers on top slowly and carefully. Use the left-over icing over the top of the cake. Your Victorian sponge cake is ready. If you don’t like the cream toppings then ideally you should dust it off with icing sugar.
  2. In place of strawberry jam, one can even use raspberry jam. Jam, crème and sponge cake that is Victoria sponge cake for you, have it with a cup of tea and have a relaxing weekend every one.

Happy Cooking Friends and Have a lovely weekend

Monday, September 23, 2013

Laksa Soup - Our Way

 Most of the time when it rains or if it’s getting dark and gray, we often make hearty warm soups. This makes us feel rejuvenated even after having a tiring day out. I have loved probably most of the soup recipes which have loads of veggies or pearl barley soup or even a spinach soup.Curry Laksa soup was always on my mind since the time I happen to read it in a cook book which featured many other Oriental recipes. And from then the bug of having home-made warm Laksa soup hit me hard.

I seldom read cook books and even if I happen to read cook books, I generally forget about everything written once I put down the book. It is rare that something gets stored in my mind and tops in the “to-do-list”. Yes, you read it right I rarely read cook books. But then there comes some good cook books which is sort of food bible to most of us and it’s not that easy to jump pages quickly, well it does keep you engrossed. And then I wonder why on earth I didn't get a chance to read it beforehand. While we were in library one fine day and I happen to read a cook book by a famous food writer, where I got to read the recipe for laksa soup.

What I read, I liked it and then imagined myself, I was sitting on the lap of snow-clad mountains some where near in Bhutan- a place near to Bengal , wearing that traditional dress of those nice Bhutanese people , relaxing with a warm bowl of fresh home-made laksa soup( oh! Laksa is more of a Malay or a Singaporean meal and has many variations specific to particular region.)And that made-up picture itself was so rejuvenating.So, while coming back to home; I promised to myself I am sure going to make it. And then that curry laksa soup was introduced for the first time in our dinner menu that day.

And then it just happened few days back that I made Laksa soup again, so thought of writing the recipe here before this thing slips out of mind or if I forget to take snaps. The basic recipe for Laksa soup is little modified here to suit our Indian taste –buds, so I happen to add red pepper powder to make it spicier. I don’t have the usual ingredients like “belacan”- which is dried shrimp paste, galangal and lemongrass in my pantry, but then I replaced them with what ever I had in my pantry. Fresh root ginger, lemon juice and fish sauce that is what I had and yes it has all of them. I guess it is more or less a refined version of "Johor Laksa" which comes from southern Malaysia.
Please use the recipe as just mere guidelines and if you are looking for traditional laksa soup, then visit some other place. But come to think of it “traditions”, is all about what one believes in and what ever we happen to pass on to next generations ahead of us. My family tradition might be slightly different form yours , but the core of the thing is “believing” in it and “practicing” it.

Laksa Soup
Recipe requirements

  • About 2-3 nests of fine egg noodles or
  • 2-3 nests of Rice noodles
  • Half a can of thick coconut milk
  • 200 Gms of shrimps
  • 3-4 cups of broth or water
  • 2 cups of 2 inch long cut strips of green beans
  • Any other vegetables of your choice like
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Baby corn etc 
  • For the spice paste of laksa soup
  • 6-7 shallots
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • ½ inch fresh ginger root or galangal
  • 5-6 blanched almonds
  • 2 whole dry red pepper
  • ¼ tsp of shrimp paste or
  • ½ tsp of fish sauce
  • 2 tsp of lime juice
  • ½ tsp of turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp of red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • ½ tsp of salt or as per taste
  • 3-4 tsp of cooking oil


  1. Marinate cold water cooked shrimps with turmeric powder and salt. We mostly get  cooked shrimps which are already cleaned here. But if using fresh shrimps then it’s necessary to properly clean and de-vein shrimps, removing shells as well. Keep aside for half an hour.
  2. Now heat up a fry pan and sauté them for 2-3 mints. Take them out and reserve it to be added at the time of assembling the soup.
  3. Now prepare the laksa paste
  4. Since I didn’t have shrimp paste also known as “belacan” at the time of making this soup and also I generally don’t use them either. Instead I like to use fish sauce in any Oriental inspired recipes. But we needed the meatiness of shrimp as well. So, while preparing the masala paste for laksa, I did add sautéed small shrimp which provided that meaty texture of the paste.
  5. In a blender, blend in shallots, garlic, ginger, about 7-8 sautéed cold water shrimps, blanched almonds, whole dried red pepper, lemon juice, fish sauce and oil. Blend all to form a uniform laksa paste.
  6. Now heat up a deep bottom pan, add in water and let it come to boil. Add in egg noodles, little bit of salt and a tsp of cooking oil. Cook the noodles and make sure they don’t get soggy. Even if they are partially cooked; they will be cooked once being added to the simmering soup.I personally like egg noodles but you may even use spaghetti noodles as well.Egg noodles cook quickly as compared to spaghetti pasta noodles.
  7. Drain the water and reserve cooked noodles.
  8. Now add cooking oil in a heated deep bottom pan and add in prepared laksa paste.
  9. Stir/fry the laksa paste well for 6-7 mints.Add in red pepper powder and cumin powder. Adjust it with salt and sugar. Since fish sauce is salty which we already have added ,take precaution while adding salt to soup at this time. It will be appropriate to taste soup at this time and then add in salt if required.Even belacan is also bit salty in case you are using it.
  10. Now add in coconut milk, mix all well. Let it slowly simmer a while.Then add in about 2-3 large cups of warm water or broth if using it.
  11. While the soup is simmering, stir/fry other vegetables like beans, bean sprouts, baby corn or bok Choy just for 3-4 mints to retain the crunchiness. Note- to retain color of green vegetables , put them with cooking noodles in hot water, take them out 2-3 mints later and then proceed to sauté them for a short time about 3-4 mints. This way they will retain the green color and also will turn out crispy. Then add them as garnishing at the time of serving laksa soup.
  12. After about 10-12 mints when the soup has blended well with the fried laksa paste. Add in cooked noodles. Take it off from the flame.And keep it covered.
  13. Now have and serve with other garnishing such as fried shrimp, green beans and a slice of lemon wedge.
  14. You can even add sautéed chicken breast strips or cooked crabs.


This recipe for laksa soup is adapted to suit our taste buds. Traditionally laksa soup is made with- dried shrimp paste, galangal and lemon grass. I have used fresh ginger root in place of galangal, and fish sauce in place of shrimp paste. Lemon grass was replaced with fresh lime juice. Shrimp paste is available now in many super-markets, if you really want to use it then sure go ahead.You can even try it out with any ready-made Thai red curry masala paste.Watch this youtube video to know more about it.

Happy Cooking Friends

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kale Leaves Kofta Curry

“Patta- Patta boota boota haal hamara Jane hai”…..It means leaves and more leaves including shoots (I hope “boota” means shoots, they know my state? I mean my state of mind…Now when ever I see every “patta”, err every “hara patta”, I like to recall the name, and if it’s edible I again try to recall how it should be made.Oh! You see I am having this short memory loss syndrome, “sab kuch bhul gaya” state of mind for the time being which somehow turns out to be short-lived thankfully. So, even though I see healthy green leafy vegetables, I tend to have this short memory loss syndrome. Well, reason behind this is, I have to make my curious daughter understand that there is a world out here where people don’t eat non-vegetarian diets only. Some also are strict vegetarian and are living a very healthy life as well. And I find little intimidating when they visit me, I am left with less choices what should be made and then served to them.So,the short memory loss syndrome happens ( please don’t form conclusions, these are only due to my culinary inadequacy, nothing to be associated with being vegetarian to be very precise). But thankfully I regain my senses quickly, and decide to make homely meals for them.
Imagine if we can hear the voices of trees and leaves, what goes into their minds, I think below conversation can easily be a reality.

Reporting from Kale leaves dreamland………..
One fine day, in the month of September, on a crisp sunny morning, bunch of curly kale leaves were sitting in my fridge, and I heard some whispers – “Look again; the lady of the house has little intentions to make anything out from us.”
Here comes another whisper-“But she always does that seeing some “hara patta”, in vegetable grocers, she picks them up, sometimes smells them and then takes into her trolley. What’s the use of buying if she doesn’t use them in cooking?”

A quite lonely kale leaf-“Hold on you gossip mongers, she does try to include possibly every edible green leafy vegetables whenever she can. And she knows it with out veggies; the healthy meal plans can not be maintained.”

Another cheerful kale leaf-“Oh! Perhaps she can do a stir/fry with garlic, whole dry red pepper and nigella seeds. She can even make Kale leaf Paratha or kale leaf chorchori .But she already do that quite often. Then why not she tries making kofta curry this time just like malai kofta curry or kanch kolar kofta curry.”

All in one voice-“We hope she should go ahead and make Kale Kofta Curry. Is she listening to that?”
Those were words of wisdom floating in Kale leaves fairy land, the land of healthy and nutrients –packed Curly Kale leaves in my fridge.

Now to the real world out here.
And here I am, making Kale Kofta curry taking clues from an intelligent conversation going on with Kale leaves sitting in my fridge. I hope those leaves were satisfied that I tried to make some unusual stuff out of them other than a simple stir/fry recipe. On the record the curious daughter also gave thumbs up to the recipe. If you like kale leaves then try them out like kofta curry.
Now to the recipe
Kale Leaves Kofta curry
Recipe requirements
For the Curly Kale koftas- (measurements are approx)
(Serves 4-5 people)
  • About 300-350 Gms of curly kale leaves chopped roughly
  • ¾  cup of besan
  • 1 tsp of red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp of salt or as per taste
  • Pinch of hing
  • Pinch of soda
  • ½ cup of cooking oil

  1. Blanch curly kale leaves and reserve the water to be used later on.
  2. Now in a mixing bowl, add in besan-Bengal gram flour, red pepper powder, and salt, pinch of asfoetida and pinch of soda. Add in blanched curly kale leaves to it. Now use the water which you earlier reserved it after blanching the leaves. Knead well if required add in 1-2 tsp of cooking oil. If you required more besan or Bengal gram flour, you may add in more so that dough can be made into small rounds easily.
  3. Divide the dough in equal portions, and then spread each portions little bit, place one or two raisins or cashews or a half a tsp of malai in between and then cover the round from all over and then roll each portions into small rounds with the help of your palm. Keep this covered and refrigerated to firm up little more.
  4. Now heat up a frying pan or deep bottom pan- add in cooking oil, let it heat up properly. Now fry each small round very well in hot oil. Take out and drain over paper towels. You can go ahead and enjoy it with some hot and sweet chili sauce or wait till you make kofta curry.  Note- You can add boiled potatoes as well to make it even more soft, but I have not included them in this recipe as of now.

  For the gravy of Kale Kofta Curry (measurements are approx)
Recipe requirements
  • 2 medium size onions
  • 2 tsp of garlic paste
  • 3-4 tsp of ginger paste
  • 2-3 dry whole red dry pepper
  • 2-3 tej patta
  • ½ tsp of fennel seeds
  • 4-5 whole black pepper
  • 3-4 tsp of mustard oil
  • ½ cup of double cream
  • ¼ cup of tomato puree
  • ½ tsp of garam masala – home made preferred
  •  2 tsp of red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp of coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp of salt or as per taste
  • 1-2 tsp of ghee (optional)

  1. Wet grind onions, ginger. Garlic, fennel, whole black pepper into smooth paste with some water. Blanch a whole tomato. Take off the skin from it. Now make puree of this tomato.
  2. Now make home-made garam masala powder- Dry Roast 2 green cardamoms, 2-3 cloves, few strands of mace, pinch of nutmeg. I sometimes do add in whole black pepper and fennel seeds to the home-made spice powder. But since these two technically is not part of garam masala, you may skip it or include them while you make paste of onions+ginger+garlic.I have made many times the gravy for kofta curry niramish way- so I tend to avoid onion and garlic to that. Then I nearly increase the amount of ginger and add in cumin seeds+fennel seeds+whole black pepper to make a wet paste. Now that recipe is little different as it fits more into “niramish ranna”.
  3. Now heat up a saucepan/kadai, add in mustard oil. Let it come to smoking point, add tej patta, whole red pepper, then add in the wet masala paste to it, and stir/fry it for 3-4 mints. Add in tomato puree to it.
  4. Add in salt, red pepper powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric powder. Add in about ½ cup of water. Keep on stir/fry for 7-10 mints at med-high flame checking if the masala don’t get stuck on the bottom of pan. And splash some water over it if it starts to stick at the bottom.
  5. If the colour of the gravy changes to little dark in colour or if the oil starts to come from the sides. The masala is ready. Add in 1-2 cups of water depending on the gravy you want. I did add roughly 1- 1 and ½ cup of water.
  6. Let it come to one strong boil, and then slowly add in fried kale leaves koftas to it. Cover the pan and put the flame to med-low and let it simmer slowly further 10-15 mints.
  7. After about 6-7 mints, add in double cream and mix well. Now if required add in warm water to make the gravy little runny as the koftas generally tend to soak up the gravy quite fast. Stop the flame and take it off.
  8. Sprinkle some Kasoori methi over the gravy.

Serve and enjoy with warm cooked Pulaos or Rotis, what ever way you prefer.

Here wishing everyone - happy Vishwakarma Pujo or Ranna Pujo as known in Bengal.Enjoy your Kite flying session.

Happy Cooking Friends

Friday, September 13, 2013

Baked Spicy Chicken Wings

Again a week goes past and thank God that it’s Friday and its weekend time now.As weekend means little relaxed time, so thought of writing a baked chicken wings recipe which you can try it out if you like to. I have posted a Buffalo Chicken Recipe in the past.This recipe of baked spicy chicken wings is slightly different as the marinade is the key here which is truly Indian is that sense.

These days if you go to any supermarkets in abroad, and if you tend to have a look at the International ingredients aisle, you can pick any spice powders like things from aamchur powder (dried mango powder) to hing and what not. As life here is busy and we have no helping hands that can run our daily errands here, I seem to like these ready-made spice powder packets. There always some, “if and but” remains and that is -nothing can replace the taste of freshly grounded spices in recipes. Home-cooks around the world I guess you all  know how important this factor is.
Whatever suits you, ready-made spice packets or freshly grounded spices, one thing I would say don’t forget to add your love for that food. Any food that is cooked and if it lacks love and labor it will instantly show up. I hope you don’t want your near and dear ones feel like this has been done just in jiffy and out of sheer context. I have seen many times a simple stir/fry veggie recipe turns out more flavorful, if it has been cooked with care and love other than the luxurious crafted recipes one gets to eat in fancy restaurants. Can you imagine yourself eating restaurant food day in and day out, thrice a day over and over again. 

I tell you even if you are tired and back from a hectic day from your work place or even if you are a home-maker who is running her life like Usain Bolt, or may be PT Usha at least, to all of you, if you happen to cook a simple Maggie with left-over veggies or with some eggs, that sounds more like a heaven.Agreed to that ? And I know you all do.
Imagine an evening with piping hot Maggie bowl and then you curling up your feet sitting on a sofa and then watching some funny cartoons with your kids. Or give them a thing which puts a smile on their face. These baked spicy chicken wings can be presented in many different ways to them; one way is right up here.A Wrap with veggies and shredded cheddar cheese , some slices of onions, mayo and some ketchup and of course there is baked spicy chicken wings.

Actually my daughter helped me in putting up these silly decorations. She corrected the nose with onion slices and mustache with shredded cheddar cheese. I guess it looks more like a chicken itself. What say? 

And how do you like to spend evenings after a hectic day outside?

Now to the recipe of
 Oven Baked Spicy Chicken Wings
Recipe requirements
  • About 700-800 Gms of chicken wings (approx)
  • ½  cup of yogurt
  • 3 tsp of red pepper powder
  • 1-2 tsp of black pepper powder (freshly grounded)
  • 2-3 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of ginger powder
  • 2-3 tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp of coriander powder
  • 2 tsp of salt or as per taste
  • ½ tsp of cardamom powder
  • ¼ tsp of cinnamon powder
  • ¼ tsp of aamchur powder
  • And about 1 tsp of garam masala

  1. Wash chicken wings very well and then pat them with kitchen towels to dry them up.
  2. Now prepare the marinade-
  3. In a big mixing bowl- add in dry powders of above listed spices- red pepper powder, black pepper powder, and garlic, ginger, cumin and coriander powder. Add cardamom, cinnamon and aamchur powder. Adjust it with salt.
  4. Now add in yogurt and mix very well. Add in 4 tsp of mustard oil to this marinade. Whisk very well to mix them up well.
  5. Now coat the marinade over chicken wings very well. Keep this in for at least 4-5 hrs in refrigerator and let them soak up the marinade well. I generally prefer skin on as this helps in retaining the moisture of baked chicken wings. However if you don’t like the skin, you can take it off.
  6. Line up a roasting tray with aluminum foil. Now neatly place each chicken wings piece.
  7. Preheat an oven at 175 deg C.Put the roasting tray in the middle rack and set the timer. Bake the chicken wings for 40-45 mints or till they have a nice brown coating. Meanwhile in between take them out and turn the sides and put them back again for roasting.
  8. Take it out when done. Serve with slices of lemon wedges and tartar sauce. Recipe of Tartar sauce can be found Here- along with pan fried spiced haddock sandwich.
  9. For kids I like to give them these baked chicken wings with some shredded cheese and mayonnaise and little decorations.

If it’s possible for you, then I would recommend using freshly grounded spices for excellent taste, however you still can use ready-made packets of spices available easily. Sometimes I also use ready-made branded spice packets like – Hot and spicy masala or chicken seasoning masala for this baked chicken wings recipe.You can use lemon juice in place of aamchur powder.

And please adjust hotness and spice level according to your taste buds.

Happy Cooking and have a lovely weekend everybody.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gatte Ki Kadhi

Past few days, one gets a feeling of crisp autumn air if one is up and awake early in the morning, but it quickly subsides during the day time and more so, if it’s sunny and bright. That nudge of coldness is very short lived and which I like to dismiss it with a cup of “garam chai” in early mornings everyday now. Tea-lovers need excuses to indulge in tea drinking, don't they?
As schools have started here, and with that daily routine phase has also started, and which makes the early mornings little busy for us and yes probably same with most of you all people as well.
I sometimes wonder how we plan for holidays long before it has even started and before we could realize it’s almost finished, and good things always comes to end early. But that full fling autumn yet hasn't arrived in our part of the world. Yesterday while we were out and walking towards the school, I noticed, just a hint on some of the tree leaves, changing colour, a kind of faint yellow tinge. That puts the child in me all becoming excited. I showed that to my daughter, and she excitedly pointed some other parts where colour was changing and leaves were little wilted or drying up. Now that early signs of autumn have showed, this has put us all waiting for the famous autumn season in this part of the world.

I remember there were times when ever my mother was not feeling well or was not into cooking full time meals, she used to make kadhi a lot, which was kind of, so unlike happening in other Bengali homes. And mind you “kadhi –chawal” itself is a complete meal, and if you can add with some "rajma curry", it becomes incomparable- me thinks so . She also made Rajma curry when ever she would cook kadhi.And pressure cooker came very handy for that quick whistle, actually her rajma curry was plain and simple even without sometimes tarka/tempering of onions+garlic .A desi ghee tarka with some ginger and tomatoes+cumin seeds, kind of basic dal like consistency for rajma curry and it still was delicious. When she would serve us, kadhi, and rajma –chawal, I can’t explain the magic it had on me. I had chick peas so made a rasa aloo-kabuli chana ki sabzi, with out onions+garlic tempering- what worked as tempering was cumin seeds+hing+ginger+tej patta and some dry red pepper, I had to add potatoes +tomatoes as this gives nice texture to the gravy. There is no special recipe for aloo-kabuli chana, and every home has its version. 

                             (  Gatte ki Kadhi, Aloo-choley ki sabzi -potato chick pea curry , sweet potato fry, dahi- dhaniya patte ke pakode,matar-rice,  chutney and papad - A vegetarian meal ) 

If you like these basic versions then go ahead and try it. And I happen to cook with small new potatoes as in this season you can get plenty of new potatoes.
The recipe for “kadhi” that is shared now is her version – my only contribution is addition of Rajasthani gatte- steamed besan gatte– “Steamed and cooked Bengal gram flour logs” .And I really don’t know if “Rajasthani gate ki kadhi” is made this way or not. Experts out there, now enlighten me.
Anyhow my mother believes in, to cook with what ever ingredients she has in her pantry. I have also followed this mantra, till to this day, although I must say her pantry, still is much more varied than mine is.

I would like to assume that the spice rack of a typical Upian or a Punjabi is slightly different than the spice rack of a typical Bengali is, considering all that cooking nuisances or techniques involved. But we do store the basic spice ingredients as each to us, right, and I would say stick to that basic pantry for spices and it will still work out in your favour.
Now to Gatte ki kadhi
Gatte ki Kadhi
Recipe requirements
For the gatte- besan gram flour boiled and cooked logs

  • 2 cups of besan-Bengal gram flour
  • 1-2 tsp of yogurt
  • 1 tsp of red pepper powder
  • 2-3 generous pinch of hing
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2-3 tsp of cooking oil
Knead the flour with little water,yogurt, salt+ red pepper powder just like you would normally do with atta dough but I would suggest grease your palms with some oil and knead well as the dough is well sticky to work with. Keep aside for half an hour. Now divide the dough into 6-7 portions and then roll them into small logs of 3 to 4 inch in length, again applying generous oil all over it.
Put a big saucepan with ample amount of water about 7-8 cups of water.Add in salt about half a tsp.Let it come to strong boil. Now gently release “gattas” in to this boiling water. Let it cook for about 8-10 mints or till they looks little faded and colourless.

For the yogurt gravy or kadhi

  • 2 cups of yogurt- I prefer thick yogurt like Greek style
  • 1-2 tbs of besan – Bengal gram flour
  • Salt as per taste
  • 1 tsp of red pepper powder
  • ¼ tsp of turmeric powder
For the tempering

  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2-3 tej patta/bay leaves
  • Some dalchini /cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 green cardamom
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp of methi – fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp of saunf-fennel seeds
  • 2-3 generous pinch of hing- asfoetida
  • 2 green chillies slit in between
  • 3-4 tbs of desi ghee or any other cooking oil

  • Fry the "Gatte" pieces in some oil so that they turn brownish, be careful they don’t break apart.Take them out and drain the excess oil over kitchen towels.Some even don’t like to fry the boiled “gattas”.Do whatever suits you.
  • Heat up a saucepan, add in desi ghee. Now do the “tarka “-tempering – add in cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds and tej patta.Add in 2-3 dry red pepper crushed.Add all the whole garam masala-cloves, cardamom and cinnamon.
  • Now add in 1 cup of water to 2 cups of dahi/yogurt. Some like it sour curd- “khatti dahi” but we generally don’t like to use sour curd or dahi which is two or three days old. But personally I have always made kadhi with fresh yogurt.Mix in red pepper powder+turmeric powder and salt to it.Add in slit green chillies.
  • Now dissolve 2 tbs of besan in to it, mix and stir well so that no lumps are formed.
  • Now put all this content – yogurt+besan+water mixture in a saucepan, mix well and check if no lumps are formed. To this yogurt mixture, add the cooked and fried “gatte” and then add in the tempering that you did above.
  • Mix well and again transfer this saucepan over heat and let it cook for further 2-3 mints at med-high flame. I prefer to do the tarka when it’s not cooking over flame; once I do the tarka I generally shift the saucepan over stove-top and then let it simmer for few mints or until tarka is mixed well with the dahi mixture.Take it off when you feel the gravy has slowly started to become little bit thick or if you prefer a runny kadhi then you may add in warm water to dilute the gravy.But please then adjust salt and red pepper powder for spice and hotness.
Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

To my best of knowledge- Punjabi Kadhi is slightly different from Uttar Pradesh kadhi and so is different from Rajasthani or Sindhi Kadhi.Above recipe that I share here is what I have seen my mother do and that was long ago. The basic ingredients or procedure I remembered and followed, perhaps this may sound little modified version as over these years,even I try to cook according to our taste buds.Please adjust the spice level according to ones preference.

Happy Cooking Friends

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Kolkata Diary- "Kumartuli"

An unscheduled short visit to India was as fulfilling as a feeling one is endowed upon when receiving good food. And when it comes to a visit to home land even though it’s a short one, we all know, we go overboard and emotional. And reunions with relatives and friends are always filled with emotions. All said and done human without emotions is mere an extension of a lifeless machine.

We are now back and one more day, school holidays will be over, with that” back to routine phase” will soon start. So, now you know about my silence over here.

But then even with a short visit, we were thankful to God, that a major thing was sorted out and worked out. We had a chance to visit some of our favorite food joints and a lovely enthralling experience when we visited Kumurtuli. Although it rained heavily in Kolkata about a fortnight ago, which is nothing new as it is near to sea and any pressure gap if formed, results in heavy showers and thunderstorms- the ones which produces loud drum roll and rumbling noise. 

The entire city was brought to stand still and was water-logged due to this sudden heavy rain showers. We were home-bound most of the time, but to us home is where the heart is. We relished sweets, king of fruits Mango , and “Aata”- apple custard etc  and some of the green vegetables which we don’t get over here fresh and  easily like ,potol-parwal, jhinge-ridge gourd, borboti-yard long beans , and green brinjal etc…After many ages , I made real “alo-potol diye Pona mach’er jhal” – fish curry with parwal and potato and “begun bhaja” the ones with light green skin, and which always turn out the most juicy and flavorful brinjal fries. And I don’t have to re-iterate that there is no substitute of home-cooked food. Then I cooked other homely foods, the kind of food which is associated with being in Kolkata like - puin shaak (oh! And we don’t need to pay hefty price for puin shaak in Kolkata) kumro-pumpkin and top it all ilish/Hilsa fish- the king of fish with all that “tel” –oil which comes out after deep frying the Hilsa pieces. The only regret on our part was that it didn’t have eggs/fish roes. 

And we crave for fish roes here, now tell me who doesn't, but that was compensated when dear husband got everyday fresh Pona or Rui –Rohu fish roes sold in fish markets probably separately. Oh! Yes they do and they come little pricey as well, but then during this monsoon period, fish markets are flooded with fresh supply f fish roes.

We relished every bit of home-cooked food there particularly “puin shaak’er ilish chenchra” cooked by my father-in-law for us on one particular day and well our lunch that day was a delight. One can see the look on his face, the kind of satisfaction and a sense of achievement, but then these small gestures go a long way, and they always make good memories. I don’t have snaps but that taste of “Ilish chenchra”, is still lingering on and that image is captured in our mind. A memory I will always treasure.

“Kumartuli “as you all know is a must visit place in Kolkata, where splendid sculptures and clay idols are made and assembled. This time of the year- during August or in September, if you get a chance to visit now, you may come across, several beautiful and magnificent "protima"-clay-idols of goddess Durga along with her children, as soon it will be time for the Hindu festival of Nabaratri.

Actually we even get to see a Sri Ganesh ji idol in making  - as Ganesh Chaturthi is near .

And also Vasudev with Sheshnaag idol , but then Janamashtami – birth of eighth son of Devki and Vasudev – sri Krishna is celebrated as Krishna Janamashtmi and it has already way passed now.Although when we visited Kumurtuli this clay idol was in making process.

So, here I am sharing some of the snaps which I tried to capture quickly, like blink of seconds with my camera which is a P&S one.And trust me I would prefer my P&S over exuberant DSLR’s, as they are indeed very heavy and cumbersome to carry. All said and done , please don’t judge the snaps as if it was meant to be featured in photography competition, but seek beyond focal length, brightness and contrast- I mean technical nuisance , as each speak and conveys volumes about the soul of this city “Kolkata – a city of Joy” for you. I know people who live there or may be had a chance to live there or the expats, you all may reflect my views about this city. Right? Now where shall I start ….

Each day brings new opportunity to seek out new dimensions in ones life. We all worship clay idols, but if we could realize these are results of hard labour by gifted hands, we would even respect those hands that make these larger than life clay-idols. With “ganga-mati” – sands from river Ganga, some hay, some fine hand-made  crafts like “shola” works and we see beautiful idols which casts spell over us during Nabaratri.

Doesn't this "shola" work leaves you spellbound..........

Although these “Kumars” as they are known in Bengali- don’t live in overwhelming surroundings but still the spirit with which they work is beyond imagination. One has to see and get inspired by their dedication and determination part. 

It was raining heavily in the city, but they were working meticulously in their workshops probably in many cases overnight. These workshops are very dingy and small and inter-mingled in “Gali”-narrow lanes in Kumortuli.We felt speechless, when we saw many of them making "protima"-clay idols, which soon will be lively when filled with vibrant colours and all the decorations with hand-crafted accessories.

While there is a rhythm about everything that happens in a particular city, and Kolkata is no exception, with its old world charm that has that vibrancy which holds you captivated and which holds many forgotten traditions earnestly still,and on other hand it likes to flaunt modern values as well.Tradition and modernization go hand in hand here. 

On one hand one can see packets of puffed rice or cereals available in swanky and posh super-markets, and then on a contrary there is this small vendor fetching “muri”-puffed rice to many of its daily customers. The customers, who throng to this small vendor, are mostly allies just like him, who live on daily wages like the rick-Shaw walahs, news paper hawkers and many other grocery hawkers. 
Let’s not judge how much money they can earn or can change their life, but one thing for sure they know if they don’t work everyday they won’t be able to sustain much. 

Let’s just forget the hygiene part also, but one thing which I still believe that the puffed rice made by this vendor is much more flavorful than the ones available in those swanky super-markets. Put him in a good and clean environment, and I am sure he can produce even more flavored “muri”-puffed rice. This small time vendor still practices “that chira chorito-podhoti” – I mean the old method of deep frying the rice grains with some sand. The amount of stir/fry that is required to pop the rice grains or to make the perfect puffed rice, or the correct temperature etc, they all have been stored in his mind and he does that in auto mode as well while chatting up with fellow customers. 

I don’t think they need instructions from any source nor they have written or maintained a recipe diary for that matter. They don’t need temperature measuring equipment also, to let them know that rice has puffed or is done. This has probably come with experience and exposure or may be the trade secrets he must have inherited from his fore-fathers. 

One can see so many similar types of small vendors carrying on with their jobs and they serve the entire city.Let's not forget that the food we now like to call "street-food" is staple food for many perhaps. I really do think these people and the likes of similar people are responsible in keeping the street-food market alive, up and running in Kolkata. If you happen to talk to them, they will be very chatty and friendly. I would say sometimes it’s good to be reminded we don’t need gold machines but we do need these people to let us understand that happiness comes from within and with little, tiny things in life.

What makes a city vibrant, echoing and glowing? It’s the people who reside in that particular place irrespective of religion, color, caste or creed. A perfect position near sea, a fertile delta land and the moist climatic conditions-Kolkata is one city which is amalgamation of history, culture and all the modern trends. And this moist climate yields good ”Dhan”-Paddy crop as well.
Paddy yields rice which became an integral part of Bengali cuisine way back, and rice is staple food here. With rice comes all sorts of other preparation like "muri"– puffed rice, "chirey"-flaked rice, "sheddo chal"- parboiled rice and "atop chal"- the normal sona-masoori or basmati rice.We do eat parboiled rice mostly when-ever we are in Kolkata, the ones which we like is “Sita-saal’, not sure this time what variety we had though.And while we like to reserve our stock of “gobindo bhog” for “pulaos” and “payesh” only.

These yellow taxis will tell you about a past associated with a flourishing make of car here. The new chapter in every book comes with changes in consequences. And “paribarton” -change is inevitable, so one can now even notice -Dial –a –taxi or AC taxi parked near airports or train stations, although when in need these yellow taxis provide one of the most spacious car one can possibly think of.This time I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean and renovated airport as well,and yes they do have Café-coffee day over there, in case you need a quick snack or hot cappuccino. 

And yeah we even survived after having a vegetarian sandwich from one of the small food-café in the airport, clearly the hygiene part is well maintained, but what comes as shocker was the price-tag of the vegetarian sandwich or may be I was over-reacting.

I was not a tourist over here, but I ended up being one of them as I started to feel little out of the world there. Last time I got up on a shared auto , the daily up –down cost me few bucks , but this time while I was coming back home , the price has shot up, almost double each side of the travel. I really don’t see how common people manage there with this ever increasing cost of living, even cooking has become pricey as subsidy on LPG has been removed making it the most costly affair. There will be days when we will be investing in LPG more than gold.

We were in one of these yellow taxis one day and got to see few of these sweet-shops across our taxi window. Actually one can come across and see these sweet corners in every corner of the city, like mushroom grooming and growing in a far stretched field. Many go on to open chains of sweet corners and some of them are pioneers in this business. 
The place where we are now living has changed even more with metro construction going on full swing, many sweet-corners and grocery stores have been re-located. Our favorite sweet-corner has become inaccessible. We have to take two more rounds, making it even more congested with traffic and the driving itself is tiring. We missed the rasgullas from that sweet-shop very much. And since we were not getting any, I made rasgullas with cow milk, almost on a daily basis. And I couldn't believe when each time, they turn out very spongy unlike the ones I make here.

These sweet corners serve many people daily; one can see so many varieties of sweets, all neatly stacked one above other and tagged with price. I can’t imagine how much milk is being consumed daily by these sweet-shops to make lip-smacking sweets Kolkata- Bengali cuisine is famous for.
Kolkata has always fascinated me, it’s not just a mere city to us. I know there are places in Kolkata like Trincas or Flurry’s in Park Street – so-called posh ones or the Biryani food joints serving soft fluffy rice biryanis or flavorful kormas, where one has to queue up to take away their famous biryanis. 

Or the ones that serve kathi rolls at the other end of the park street can’t recall the name, but it’s a famous kathi-roll joint on Park Street.Or the famous China town where one gets to eat flavourful Indo -Chinese cuisine. Then there are confusing blocks or islands in Salt-lake in eastern fringes of Kolkata, which I am still getting used to and many times I do ask others to remind me the names of many blocks so that I don’t end up somewhere else. 
And then in north Kolkata, culture is slightly different from south Kolkata, up to an extent the cuisine is also diverse in these sections. North Kolkata has fair share of immigrants from other parts of India, particularly presence of a strong Marwari community.

And the central Kolkata has that Anglo-Indian influence and on another hand south Kolkata has more refined Bengali touch - many posh areas are scattered over here like Ballygunj or New Alipore etc.
 Then there are sects of Muslim culture in various pockets in Kolkata.And with such diverse population , the cuisine of Kolkata is even more diverse,from staple Bengali shukto, to Awadhi Biryani’s to “shudh shakahari bhojan” I mean vegetarian cuisine to Chinese Momos or dim-sums.The cuisine of Kolkata offers endless varieties to the people who come here to make a livelihood or are residents from many generations.
These days one can even see imported goodies in various big super-markets.

And then there is College Street, where there is no end to small shops or book Shops. You may even dig out old books from 60’s as well if you wish to do that. Or the pious silence near banks of river Hooghly. The mighty Hooghly bridge one and two both, just spent an evening quietly sitting near the Out-raam ghaat, watch the sun go down and then slowly see the light coming up on the Hooghly bridge while you relish some jhaal-muri. Or spent sometime in "Kumartuli" to appreciate those magnificent clay sculptures.

And probably there are hundred other ways to spend evenings or mornings in Kolkata and if I keep on writing, then this will become an endless rambling then.

I really don’t know why always there is as such, flooding of emotions when ever we visit or are in Kolkata. Every Street, every corner of the city has wrapped a layered story, a story which needs to be unraveled, may be the beauty of this city lies in some where there. Even though you are strolling somewhere in this city, but you still keep on discovering yourself slowly along with this city of joy i.e. Kolkata for you....

See you all with some recipes in next coming posts..Take care all.....