Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Black and White Wednesday- Steamed

Well, it’s another Wednesday and time for a new Black and White Wednesday.

Steamed foods are healthy and nutritious. These are steamed ridge gourd. I just loved the steam coming out from this hot, steamed ridge gourd bringing alive the food. With bare minimum ingredients-A dash of salt, mustard oil for the kick and this taste heaven –crunchy-munchy and healthy.

and this is the colour version

Sending this to Susan’s Black and White Wednesday.........

Happy Cooking

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yellow Peas/Matar and Carrots Fried Rice

This fried rice is quick fix recipe when we have some left-over rice from our afternoon meal. I had soaked some yellow peas to make Ghughni  few days back. About a cup of them were still left unused in refridgerator.And it just came to my mind all of a sudden to make this quick-fix stir/fry rice for dinner that day.
Most of the time I like to add onions, bit of ginger juliennes and whole black pepper for stir/fried rice or whatever I have in my pantry for that matter. This recipe is very flexible and saves your effort in kitchen.

As I type this recipe, I am trying to figure out a life of a busy college going student living far off from her/his home...may be across seven seas where he/she has not the comfort of a home or may be a cook and the budget is always on a check.Living or surviving on take-aways, instant noodles and sandwhiches is not healthy and most importantly every time you end up spending more with each transactions.This stir/fry rice with vegetbales saves your day..Adds a healthy touch to your daily meal.
Imagine after a hard day at office, even at your college, even running around for your family members, I am sure you don’t have that much energy left to assemble a nice full course meal. I would say make rice ahead in the morning , let it cool a little bit while you prepare yourself with all other activities to start your day, and then before leaving out for your work ,refrigerate the cooled cooked rice.And don’t tell me you have less time for that..One whistle in a pressure cooker and you are done with cooking Basmati rice.If you have M/W then microwave high for 7-8 mints.

Coming back home from your office or college, you can pick some shredded carrots/cabbage/capsicum/peas from nearby supermarket or any grocery store selling vegetables. Or even if you have a grater, use that while you brew your evening tea/coffee. In the meantime, chop some onions and ginger or may be even tomatoes while you sip your evening tea or coffee and then put up a light hearted old Hindi Movie song for a change , heat up a saucepan, add oil, toss all the vegetables, season it and then add the cooked rice which you made earlier in the morning. And here you are ready with a one –pot meal. Add some store bought meat balls for a nice non-vegetarian turn or some paneer cubes for a vegetarian twist. Do you need any more inspiration to cook for yourself?

Below pictures are all night-shots with less light, so kindly ignore the glaze and shine.

Yellow peas and carrot fried rice
Recipe requirements
1 cup of soaked yellow peas
3-4 cups of cooked rice
½ cup of grated carrot
1 onion chopped roughly
About 10-12 whole black pepper
2 cloves
2 cardamoms
3-4 dry red peppers
2-3 tbs of cooking oil
  • Soak about 1 cup of yellow peas overnight.
  • Alternately if you want a quick way, soak them in hot water for about 4-5 hrs.
  • Obviously you should be ready with cooked rice, better if it’s refrigerated. As refrigerated cooked rice is best for fried rice preparation.
  • Now heat up a wok/saucepan. Add oil; temper it with cloves, cardamom, and dry red pepper.Add chopped onion.
  • Now add yellow peas, grated carrots. I have used thick grated carrots for the stir/fry as thin grated carrots tend to end up being soggy and squashy.
  • Now keep on frying for at medium high flame for 3-4 mints. Cover it and cook till yellow peas get partly cooked.
  • Now add the seasonings-salt, cumin powder, red pepper powder.
  • Add the cooked rice. Mix very well.
  • Serve warm as side dish or main course.
And in case you have time on your hand especially on weekend these gravy recipes goes exceptionally well this stir/fry rice. Imagine you have friends over your place and you want to wow them with your culinary skills then just go for it guys...what are you waiting for………..

Gravy recipes that can be paired with this fried rice.

1. मटर पनीर - Matar Paneer /Chanar Dalna

2. पनीर शाही कोरमा -Paneer Shahi Korma

3. कोशा मान्ग्शो -Kosha Mangsho - Bengali Mutton Curry

4. Hassle  फ्री चिक्केन कर्री -Hassle Free Chicken Curry

5. दोई माछ -Doi Mach- Fish with yogurt

6. रुई माछेर दो प्यान्ज़ा -Fish Do Pyanza

Happy Cooking Friends

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Black and White Wednesday - Vegetable Market

We were visiting Cardiff , capital of Wales, for the first time about a year ago. There we came across Cardiff Market .Being a foodie and a food blogger; these fresh vegetables caught my eyes. If you happen to visit Cardiff, don’t forget to check this market which sells fresh vegetables and local food at reasonable price.

and this is the colour version of the same picture

Sending this to Susan’s Black and White Wednesday ............

Happy Cooking Friends

Saturday, September 3, 2011

All About Brato- Fasting Rituals in a Bengali Home

Our ancestors have always emphasized on fasting for every festivals. Traditional joint families are rare entities in metro cities these days, and if we shift our eyes from metros to small cities and then to villages, there number would tend to increase in that particular order. In fact most of the homes in rural Bengal are all traditional joint families.
The main lady of the house and the gentleman of the house have bigger responsibility of enduring all the rituals and to an extent making it sure that it should be passed on to younger generations as well.
I have been getting a lot of search queries past these years about the food to be eaten on Shashti Brato which include- Neel Shashti, Ashok Shashti and Durga Pujo Shashti.

This is what I have known precisely about different fasts that had been part of my life while growing up and also after being married. The facts mentioned here are based on the experiences I had gained, while seeing my grandmother, mother and mother-in-law observing these fasts.

I don’t claim them to be accurate but generally these basic principles are observed while following these Broto/fast in traditional Bengali Home.

“Brato” in Bengali means fasting.

Talking about fast , Shashti Brato/fast is the main fasting ritual of married Bengali ladies and specifically blessed with children.
As Durga Puja is coming near, Bengali married ladies will be observing their Shashti Brato.

Shashti Brato/fast –

  • Menu is driven basically on a fact that anything which is cooked with rice flour or has rice is not eaten. Menu is purely vegetarian. That means not even fish – a staple Bengali favorite.
  • Any thing which is burnt or charred is not eaten which includes rotis/ bread /toast and also all the oven baked vegetables as that equals being charred or burnt. However all the fried things like Luchi and paratha generally can be eaten.
  • Sprouts are healthy option if you want to snack in between. Onions and garlic, sometimes even ginger is a strict no in case of a Shashti food menu. Seasonal fruits and juices however are integral part.
  • Sweets and fruits are offered to Goddess on 6 Th day of Durga Pujo.
  • Yogurt /dahi /doi is very essential.
  • Scientifically Yogurt has this soothing effect on stomach as after a rigorous fasting routine our body releases many digestive enzymes which may turn harmful to our body otherwise as stomach is devoid of any food. Yogurt helps in reducing the acidity formed due to fasting.
  • A plate of freshly fried luchis and cholar dal ( sans onion/garlic/ginger tempering and garam masala tempering) begun bhaja is considered edible as far as Shashti Menu is considered for a typical Bengali home.
  • Menu for Neel shahsti and Ashok Shashti remains the same. Both these shashti is slated on the other nabaratri –the nabaratri which ends with Ramanabami in the month of April which also coincides with Poila Boishak or Bengali New Year.
  • Neel shashti- which is actually a fast related to Lord Shiva, as at the end of the day precisely at Suryasta or in the evening, puja offerings are made to Lord Shiva to seek his blessings for the well being of entire family, children specially.Milk, sweets and , Trumpet Flower -Dhatura Phool/Akondo Phol  and  Calotropis - Akando phol , and trident leaves of Bael tree  are offered to Lord Shiva.
Kali Pujo Brato-

  • A very strenuous fasting ritual. Some even don’t drink water or eat any food on this day. 
  • While  for a easy ritual stick to basics of having seasonal fruits, milk or lentils/Sprouts, even boiled vegetables can also be eaten.
  • This fast is broken at midnight at nearby Kalibari (abode of Ma Kali or Ma Kali temple) with 5 types of different seasonal fruits and sweets as offerings and a long Jabaphol’er mala or China rose flower necklace. Many a times some cults are also associated with it. But let’s not go into those details.

Lakshmi pujo Brato-

  • A fasting ritual on Lakshmi Puja, some days after Vijayadashmi.In the evening “Lakhi Brato Kotha” a mythological and sacred story is read and all the bhog is offered to Goddess Lakshmi.
  • The menu for the Bhog is purely vegetarian –
  • A dal preferably Cholar Dal, aloo phulkopir torkari, payesh, chatni and some dry fruits like roasted cashews and Chirey/poha with til candies/white sesame seeds candies or some white sugar candies and Batasha is offered as bhog to Goddess.
  • Entire house is swept clean before this Puja.And entrance to every door in rooms and the main entrance of the house are decorated with Goddess Lakshmi‘s symbolic footprints. These are made from a thick paste of grounded rice. I remember making many “alponas” on every Lakshmi Puja in our paternal home with balls of soft cottons dipped in this paste and then going along with the free flow of creativity.
  • The person, who is cooking the food which is “bhog”, should be clean, must be on a strict fast and should have proper bath prior to cooking, should also wear clean and washed clothes. He/she should not taste the food while preparing it as this will mean its “entho” meaning food is not appropriate or pure for Goddess as bhog.This principle stands for every bhog that is prepared which includes the Saptami and Ashtami Bhog during Durga Pujo as well.
 Ekadashi Brato-

  • Ekadashi Brato is a Folahaar Brato meaning only fresh seasonal fruits are eaten, not even anything related to flour/rice/pulses/legumes if I am not wrong. However there is always  better to balance things while folowing any ritual.This fast is very pious and strict.
  • This happens twice in every month as there are two ekadashi in every Bengali month I guess.
There are other Brato as well like Shibratri Brato and Janamashtami Brato as well.
  • Fruits and sweets, milk and Dahi is part of food menu.
  •  Apart from that a special flour “Singhare ka atta” is used to make a sweet halva as bhog to Lord Shiva on Shibratri at my parental home.
I have tried to include all details as per best of my knowledge about these fasting, however if anything is left, do let me know if there are other fasting rituals as well.

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Happy Cooking Friends