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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lao Diye Mong Dal - Bottle gourd with Mung/Yellow lentils

Do you remember a folk song by Runa Laila – “Sadhe’r lao banailo morey bairagi “….well “bairagi” or “ragi” say what ever or even you wish to assign , lao was not a popular choice when it came to having a stir/fry recipe in our home. But as with each passing years, I have started to realize that I am trying to ape my Ma and Ma-in-law, well at least in terms of cooking per se. That said, I think as our kids grow older, you tend to change your menu plans or preferences for particular food items and recipes, introducing more vegetables and other specialty now becomes compulsory. As you feel, like the baton for the relay race has been passed on to you, responsibility tends to overtake carelessness and idleness.



As I now try to incorporate some of the age-old recipes, in our day-today meal plans. And anything cooked with Lao or bottle gourd as in English is one of those things. This vegetable has become a regular part of our weekly menu plans, be it a simple stir/fry , Lao ghonto with fish head,, lauki kofta curry, lao-chingri jhaal, lao doi etc.This lentil preparation is one easy way of incorporating vegetables in lentil curry, although I wouldn’t like to assign curry tag to this preparation, as it has gravy but is more towards like a soup, but yet still it’s not a proper soup, I guess without being confused and making you further amused, I would stick to basic, so the long name for this recipe – first in Bengali , our mother tongue- “Lao diye Mong dal” and then in English- “ Bottle gourd cooked with yellow lentils”.

Lao Diye Mong dal 
Recipe requirements( serves 3-4)
1 and 1 ½ cups of yellow lentils/mung dal
About 3 cups of chopped bottle gourd in to cubes
½ tsp of turmeric powder
For tempering the dals
½ tsp of kalo jeerey/nigella seeds/kalaunji
2-3 dry red pepper
1 cup of chopped coriander (optional)
Salt as per taste
two pinches of sugar
3-4 tbs of mustard oil or any other cooking oil
Method
In a fry pan/saucepan, dry roast mung dal for about 6-7 mints at medium flame, stirring in between, just as to have a lovely even ,pale brown colour. When a nice aroma of mung dals/lentils, starts coming, stop the roasting part.
Now put it to cook with enough water, at least fill the saucepan up to half. When a white froth starts coming, scoop it out and discard.
Now add in salt, turmeric powder. Let it come to another boil.
Add in chopped bottle gourd and put the flame at med-low, allow to slowly simmer. I have used half the long bottle gourd for this much of dal, which serves 3-4 people.
Let it cook further 15-20 mints. When the bottle gourd has turned soft, do the tempering part.
For tempering we will need nigella seeds, and dry red pepper. Heat up a separate pan, add in mustard oil, let it come to a good smoking point; add in nigella seeds, dry red pepper. Now transfer this to the simmering pot of lentils.Add in sugar. Cover it and cook for 4-5 mints.
Now stop cooking and sprinkle coriander leaves, although that’s just my personal preference, however you can skip that part. Enjoy with warm cooked rice.


Tomorrow is Basant panchmi; or Saraswati puja.May this day leads us all to a world of knowledge and compassion. And also like every year, khichdi, chatni -payesh is on our menu tomorrow and not to forget gota-sheddo, although we will have it on Sunday, a day after panchami.Shitol sashti as it is commonly known in Bengal, has been part of traditions in many families.
So enjoy the day with kite-flying, relishing khichdi, although some of them will be having Hilsa fish, and some will be waiting for gota sheddo next day...What ever way you do prefer the festivals, some of the thing, which remains common - celebrations and happiness…enjoy and have a lovely weekend.


Happy Basant Panchmi...Saraswati Pujar onek sbubecha…..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Choshi'r Payesh on Sankranti

The earth rotations evokes season, and with each passing season comes, the festivals that are particularly associated with that season. Winter, although proclaimed to be rather cold, kind of a villain in a film, but even then, there are many festivals, specific of these seasons which prepare us for celebrations. Last year in December we celebrated Christmas. Now it’s Lohri/Makar Sankranti/Pongal/Poush Parbon, actually these all are quite similar functions but with different names particularly region specific in India.
Wish you all a very happy Makar Sankranti, Poush Parbon, Lohri, and Pongal.


Being raised in a traditional family, those never-ending get-togethers, party and festivals, always sounded like a “Mela” to me. Every season has various festivals, and each festival was integral part of our family culture, even including Christmas. And once the New Year ushers in, it was soon time for “poush- parbon”, as in a typical, middle-class, joint Bengali family. Three days were important, every corner of the house was mopped and cleaned and then it was the usual routine of making various Pitha and pulley in our family kitchen. This goes same with my husband’s family. Although it was more rigorous, as it was so specific of Kolkata culture. For us probashi, it was lenient, in terms of cooking pitha or pulley.
My Ma-in-law observes Sankranti for two-three days. Each day a new type of pithey or pulley should be made, like- shoro Chakhali, ranga aloor pithey, Sedho pulley-pitha etc and must is nolen gur’er payesh.I have listed few Sankranti recipes over here.And Sankranti celebrations in my in-laws native’s place without nolen gur’er payesh, is incomplete. Now, My Ma who has  mix of both the world, I mean UP culture and Bengali culture, she makes Sankranti Khichuri and also one of the various pithey only on Sankranti day. For her, a Sankranti celebration is incomplete if she doesn’t make “Sankranti Niramish Khichuri” and “pati shapta”.
Today, I thought of sharing a long forgotten recipe, Choshi’r payesh.As it seems to me now with a vague memory, I can’t recall when was the last time I ate it, so forget about making it in my kitchen. Then I searched in internet, it added to my further disappointment.So, to be honest this is my first attempt of making choshi/chushi.As I can’t recollect the method, I called back home to ask my Ma to guide me with her recipe, while she was telling me about two possible way of making this. One was with atap chal/rice flour and other with khoya+maida.How ever, she is keen on making the choshi with khoya+maida, as it tastes more flavourful.
She herself has seen her grandmother – making “Choshi”- chushi, all from scratch, which obviously is a tedious process, as in those days, there was nothing called commercialization aspects of recipes. So, every home used to make home made rice flour or even making or shaping choshi with their hands. Once the Choshi were shaped and made, then it used to sun-dry. Once the choshi were sun-dried properly, on Sankranti eve or on one of the days during Poush Parbon, they would make Choshi’r payesh.Usually, it was first fried in ghee and when the milk has thickened with sugar or “nolen gur”, the choshi were slowly added to the simmering milk/kheer, finishing off with sprinkling crushed cardamom powder.My Ma has a very melodious and lyrical way of describing the act when the “choshi” should be added to the thickened milk in case it’s made with rice flour as once they are added , it tends to go soggy or fall apart in milk.Put the flame to med-high when you are about to add choshi   and ‘jokhon dudh ta “tog-bog” korey phute uthbe, tokhon chushi ke ashte korey dudh e chere dite hobe,anch ta bondo korey, er por chapa diye rakhte hobe.” (Ok I don’t need to translate that.)
That was a long process, and time –consuming affair. These days, when I don’t have much time on my hand, like many of you, I would suggest make it with “ready-made choshi” which are now easily available in various grocery stores in Kolkata during these Poush- parbon days. And in case you don’t have access to ready-made choshi, then read ahead and try to make it in your home kitchen. If a novice like me can do it, so you can.
Since I have made it with Milk powder+maida, I will just put a note about the Rice flour choshi pithey.All the process of making choshi pithey remains the same except just not making it with rice flour.

Note about Rice flour Chushi Pithey

Take about half cup of rice flour and knead it with lukewarm milk. After the dough has started to collect well, it will be soft to touch. Now divide in two portions. Roll each portion with the help of your palm and shape it like choshi. After the milk has thickened, add in sugar or nolen gur if using it. Let it dissolve completely. Fry the choshi in ghee, just barely to give them a nice golden colour at low flame. Add them in the thickened milk, cover and let it simmer for few minutes. Switch off, and let it cool.



Now to the method which we have made- (My Mother’s recipe)
Choshi’r payesh
Recipe requirements
For the choshi 
  • ¾ cup of milk powder
  • ¼ cup of maida/ flour
  • Or 1 cup of khoya+4-5 tbs of maida
  • 800 ml or  2 ½ -3 cups of whole milk roughly
  •  3-4 crushed cardamoms
  • 5-6 tbs of sugar or to taste or Nolen Gur as per taste
  • 3-4 tsp of ghee

Method
Chushi making and shaping
  • In a mixing bowl, mix in milk powder+ maida. Knead them well, with lukewarm water. Or you may use Khoya if you can get it fresh as that is what my mother uses it.
  • Now after it starts collecting well, divide the dough in to small portions. With clean hands, roll each portion in to a long rope, use some flour if the dough is sticky.
  • Each rope can then further be divided into portions. Roll each portions in to the shapes as depicted in the “how to shape picture”. Now usually at this time the Choshi is roughly 5-6 cm. You can go ahead and make it with this much long choshi. As you can see, I have further reduced the length to roughly 2 cm.Now put them to air dry for about an hour.Unused dough freezes well, and in case you want to fry them all, do so and store in fridge, consume within 2-3 days.Ok to be precise, if you can shape  like "Orzo pasta shape"  then that is nearly perfect.
  • Make other choshi similarly. Do not hurry, take time to roll the choshi, and shape them with gentle hands. The smaller they are chances are they won’t break in the thickened milk.

Now to making  payesh with Choshi
  • Meanwhile you are making choshi, put the milk on heat, Crush cardamoms, and add in to the simmering milk. When the milk has reduced (which at least require 30-35 mints at med-low flame, and stirring in between ), add in sugar.You can also add in nolen Gur, which gives that rustic touch to Choshi’r payesh.And I don’t need to write about the flavor.
  • Put a fry pan on heat; add in ghee/oil. Now fry the choshi on low flame, just barely giving them a nice golden to brown colour.We require about ¾  cup of choshi or two handfuls of home-made choshi.
  • When the sugar has completely dissolved, the milk tends to get thinner, even though it already has thickened earlier. Don’t fret; continue simmering another 10-15 mints. You will see the milk starts thickening again. At this point add in the fried Choshi to the thickened milk. Few minutes of cooking and stop cooking it further. Let it cool.
  • Refrigerate once it gets cooled; consume within 2-3 days. Enjoy the choshi’r payesh.

This is absolutely divine in taste, and if you can make it with nolen gur, I really don’t think, I need to write further.


Note-

Choshi’r payesh -the recipe above is how our home makes it, I don’t claim it to be traditional, as the traditional process is time consuming. If you are making choshi pithey payesh, then make it with rice flour. Although personally I will prefer the taste of choshi payesh, if choshi is made with khoya or milk powder.

Happy Cooking and have a  Happy Sankranti and Poush Parbon.....

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas Carrot Pudding and Happy New Year

Now that merry, terry and humari Christmas fever has subsided and with epiphany near, I thought perhaps it’s time to take off the festive spirited or the ”brandy”-dized hat and welcome on board a brand new year. So, here wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.
This Christmas pudding recipe was made on Christmas Eve. I know its way back, but with last day of the 12 day celebrations, I thought it should finish on a sweet note, and also as a welcome post for a new year ahead.

We have always bought the store-bought Christmas pudding, but some how I was looking to re-create that magic in my kitchen. Yes, I wanted a genie who can churn out this magical recipe in my home. And in this case, the genie was Google, as I looked, read and searched Christmas pudding recipes in the internet, it left me confused. But at the end of all those searches like “Bharat ek khoj” …. I came up with this recipe, as I haven’t strictly followed any recipes out there; this has become almost our version. And that is what, recipes can do, once you share your version, there will be many other version- 2.1, 3.1, 4.1 etc ……
If you are prepared for high power bills and if it’s ok for you to run your kitchen gas for 4- 4 ½ hrs, then I should say please, read ahead , otherwise there are plenty of well decorated and pre- made Christmas pudding bowls, available in grocery shops.



If you still want that “ghar –ka” flavor type of Christmas pudding, then go ahead and do make, recipe has been shared with you.
Christmas carrot and raisin pudding
Recipe requirements
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 4 whole meal breads or 2 cups of bread crumbs
  • 30 to 40 gms of butter
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 2 cups of assorted dried fruits- almonds, walnuts, dried craneberries, currants, glazed cherries
  • 1 ½ cup of raisins
  • 2 cups of tightly packed shredded carrots
  • 2 tbs of brandy/orange juice
  • ½ tsp of orange zest
  • ¼ tsp of salt




Method
  • Before you start making Christmas pudding, soak the assorted dried fruits and raisins in orange juice for 3-4 days. If you are comfortable with using alcohol, you can use that as well – like brandy or rum, otherwise soaking them in orange juice is still manageable. I have used up –chopped walnuts, almonds, dried currants, cranberries, candied orange etc as assorted dried fruits.
  • Now toast 4 whole meal breads well, making it very crisp, cut off the sides and pulse in a mixer to get fresh bread-crumbs. You can use the store-brought bread-crumbs as well.
  • Take 2 medium size carrots, and shred them with steel boxed shredder. This should come to 2 cups of tightly packed shredded carrots. Carrots give nice moisture to the overall flavor of pudding.
  • Now in a big mixing bowl, take plain flour, bread crumbs, and baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon powder. Mix in all the ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.Add in one egg also.Mix in well.- ( Add in muscavado sugar for better taste.)
  • Add in shredded carrots, soaked dried fruits, raisins, chopped glazed cherries, orange zest and brandy. Start mixing all very gently, it should collect well and should be of dropping consistency.If required add in little bit of more orange juice, to get that dropping consistency.Add in orange zest also.
  • Now mix in all the wet ingredients of this bowl with the other mixing bowl of flour , bread crumbs etc.
  • Now take two bowls, or pudding moulds if available. Grease the bowls with some oil.
  • Now cut greaseproof paper in two rounds, just to cover both pudding bowls. Similarly, cut out aluminium foil in two rounds, as just to cover the bowls.
  • Divide the batter into two portions. Drop the batter in to the greased bowl, and cover it with first greaseproof paper and then top of it with aluminium foil. Secure the bowl by tying thread around it.
  • Take two big enough saucepans, where you can safely place these two bowls. I have used pressure cooker vessel and one large saucepan.Use the vessel and cover with the lid, taking off the whistle, no need to lock the pressure cooker vessel with lid.
  • Place two small can –lids (jam can lids works fine) in the middle of each saucepan. Fill the saucepan with water up to 1/3 of the area.
  • Now, start the gas and let the water come to a boiling temperature. Now very carefully place the two pudding moulds into the saucepan, over that jam-can lids.Cover the saucepans with lid and put the flame to low heat. Let it steam-cook, covered for about 4 – 4 ½ hrs. Once it’s done, let it rest for a while.




Serve warm and with caramel sauce or cream. We had this with ice-cream as well. Trust me every bite that you take in, is filled with that heavenly flavor and aroma. This pudding stays fresh for 2-3 days.

happy cooking friends and a happy new year .....