Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mutton- Biryani - A home-cook's version

We are into full blown summer days in the northern hemisphere, and with that, parks are all gearing up for summer family day outs here, well I can’t say that about India though. But, as it seems, evenings are cooler over there, and with evening breeze, it tends to lower down the temperature as well. Although, it was a traumatic experience for them past month, with the recent earthquakes, that rattled the northern parts of country, Delhi and Kolkata were not untouched either. My heart goes out to those living outside their homes in Nepal, living under that constant threat and a future, where everything is blurred. Even with all these new generation gizmo and gadgets, when it comes to Mother Nature, we still haven’t got what it takes to take full control of her, or maybe we won’t be able to do so in hundred years. We are way behind, the right approach for this matter would be to start a much synchronised disaster management. Peace and prayers for all of them.

I haven’t updated the blog, so thought of shedding some hibernation fat, and updating the blog with a delicious recipe post. As the recipe post says, “Mutton biryani”, I do feel it doesn’t matter, how it is made, every time it tastes delicious. Now I won’t be going in to the details of various types of biryanis, their method and minor culinary inputs, for a home-cook like me, I really don’t get into the business of all the nuisances of those fine- prints. Give me any day, light fluffy biryanis with delicate flavours and am a happy soul, and even so, my family members.

 Now to the preparation part

Mutton Biryani
Recipe Requirements
(Serves – 3-4 )
700 Gms of lamb /Goat Mutton
1 large onion
4-5 fat cloves garlic
½ inch ginger root
 1 tsp of lemon juice
 2-3 medium size potatoes (optional)
For seasonings
1 tsp of red pepper powder
 ½ tsp of freshly crushed black pepper
1 tsp of freshly grounded coriander powder
¼ tsp of cumin powder
½ tsp of nutmeg powder
½ tsp of cinnamon powder
½ tsp of cardamom powder
1 tsp of garlic powder
½ tsp of ginger powder

 Half cup of thick yogurt
1 tsp of salt or as per taste+ ¼ tsp of salt for cooking rice
Whole spices
 3-4 cloves
4-5 cardamoms
2 black cardamom
 2, ¼ inch cinnamon sticks
 two pinches of nutmeg

Three- four generous pinches of saffron soaked in quarter cup of lukewarm milk
 1tsp of kewda essence
 2 cups of high quality basmati rice
 ¼ cup of cooking oil for mutton preparation+ 5 tsp of cooking oil required in other stages of cooking.

Mix all the dry seasonings to make a dry masala powder to make biryani. This forms the "base masala" for our biryani.

Now add in yogurt, gently mixing it with a spoon. Adjust salt and add in lemon juice.A wet marinade is ready for the mutton pieces. 
I have used diced and boneless lamb pieces, a cut from leg side for this biryani. You can use any portions and also with bones. Goat mutton is what I use, when we are in India.

Now marinate lamb pieces with the spiced yogurt mixture. Keep aside for 1 hr, or better if you have time then marinate for 3-4 hrs, keeping it refrigerated.
 Cooking the rice for biryani

Now wash rice in running water. And soak them for about 15-20 mints.
Heat up a big pot/pan, we use “dekchi” to make mutton biryani back in home- India. Old fashioned- aluminium “handi” also works best. How, ever any heavy bottomed pan, big enough to hold the entire lamb and rice mixture works well also.
And since we will be doing a quick oven-bake, a big oven –proof casserole works fine as well.
Cook rice, till it’s partially cooked- to be precise- ¾ cooked rice grains, turns nice fluffy in biryani. Bring a large pot with water to boil, add in 1 tsp of cooking oil and few pinches of salt, same as like we do cooking for pasta. This way rice grains won’t stick with each other much.
We do not need nice-puffed up, thoroughly cooked rice grains. Don’t worry these will be cooked through well, at the time of assembling or layering up the biryani. So, drain out rice-starch. Now add in about 2 tsp of cooking oil, gently toss the rice grains and take out in a large plate. Allow rice grains to cool.
Now we will make a small cloth bag of whole spices- crushed cloves, cardamoms, black cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Tie this with thread tightly.

Cooking the mutton/lamb for biryani
 In a blender, make a smooth paste of onion/ginger/garlic with 2 tsp of cooking oil.
Take a big fry pan, add in cooking oil.
Now add in onion/ginger /garlic paste. Let it stir/fry for about 8-10 mints. Add in salt.
Now add in the marinated lamb pieces. Keep on stir/fry for 20-25 mints, splashing water as required.
Add in half cup of warm water, cover the lid and let it cook for about 30 mints further. Since, we have used boneless lamb pieces, it will require less time as compared to lamb pieces with the bones. And also use potato cubes now, but this is purely optional, one can skip it, if doesn’t want to include potatoes, (this is a Bengali way of making biryani, adding potatoes)

Layering/assembling the biryani
In an oven-proof casserole, first spread a layer of rice, then layer the cooked mutton pieces, use the gravy as well. The gravy will tend to be semi-dry, so that rice incorporates well the flavour, without turning soggy further.
Now sprinkle kewda essence, or saffron –milk water. Place the small, whole –masala bag- “masala-potli” over the rice-layer .Repeat the layering of rice with cooked lamb pieces, until the whole of the rice is used up. Top this with any left-over rice. Sprinkle saffron-milk water. You may also add in fried onions in between the layers.

Cover with a foil, and transfer this to the pre-heated oven. Bake it for 10-15 mints at 180 deg C. Alternately one can also, cook it up on stove-top as well. Seal the dekchi / handi or pan with flour dough and cook it at low flame for 15-20 mints.
Take it off, from the cooking, and let sit for 2-3 hrs, before you open out the dough seal.” Dum –style “cooking is required for a light fluffy biryanis.

Since I prefer, oven baking method, now about oven- bake method.
To finish off biryani –making, after you have taken it out from the oven, cover the entire casserole with a cotton towel, so that the heat doesn’t escape much, this will cook the rest of the partially cooked rice. Allow at least 2-3 hrs for the aromas to blend in well.
At the time of serving, just pop it in microwave, preferably covered, to reheat or put them in oven for about 10 mints. Serve and enjoy with a raita preparation and some salad.

Happy Cooking Friends

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hummus - Recipe with white sesame seeds

With spring season upon us, we really feel blessed to notice spring blossoms scattered here and there. Every season has its own way of making its presence felt. If there is strong and cold winter, then there is spring, which comes as a balm to sored souls. Summer, has own way of making its presence felt, being sweltering and hot. And autumn, well, what do I need to add, autumn whenever spelt, it itself creates vague and beautiful pictures, enticing our senses with colorful disposition.

Now come back from that whirlwind trip of seasons, step aside and park yourself in your kitchen, it’s time to cook. Eating with season has become part of our food plans. And it’s not that something, I pre-plan, but then it has become a routine. For that matter, I have never seen my Ma or Ma-in-law making out such plans about eating with season, to them it was all about, what was really available easily in their respective local vegetable markets, and which obviously used to be flooded with all the local produce and in accordance with seasonal fruits and vegetables (I have started a label “Eating with season” keeping in mind the changes, that are good to include for our day-today grocery plans and eating habits. I will try to update that label from time to time.)
It was going like that, until came those leading globe explorer, who with their each expeditions opened up a new world to each one of us. They due to their curiosity, meticulously started exploring new ingredients, new recipes and new cuisines. And with that, came new discoveries about methods, ingredients and exploring other world cuisine.

Hummus a great Mediterranean dip, can be relished throughout a year.Although, served as part of Turkish-style meze platter. You don’t have to wait for a particular season to relish this mouth tingling dip. All you need is cooked and boiled chick peas, and I am sure every Indian home keeps dried chick peas in their pantry. And for those of you, who are always on a tight schedule, you do have pre-cooked chick- pea cans.

But to get that store-bought quality, one has to make it with toasted sesame seeds or better if you can get “Tahini paste”. Now Tahini paste is easily available in middle-eastern stores here in abroad. But in case you can't get Tahini paste easily, you can use toasted white sesame seeds/ “till” as in Hindi. And olive oil can also be replaced with normal sunflower oil, although olive oil is the primary oil used in hummus preparation
Now to the recipe

Hummus – A Mediterranean dip
Recipe requirements
  •  2 cups of cooked chick peas or use 1 pre-cooked chick peas can
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4-5 tbs of olive oil
  • ¼ tsp of grounded pepper /cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup of Tahini paste or use ½ cup of toasted white sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp of black pepper powder
  • Salt as per taste
  •  2 -3 tsps of lemon juice
  • Some more olive oil for garnishing

If you are using dried chick peas. Soak those overnight in water, and next day cook it as usual in a pressure cooker for two whistles. You can even use canned chick –peas as well.
If you can get Tahini Paste easily, go ahead with it. However, if you are getting difficulty in finding one, then, use white sesame seeds. Take white sesame seeds and dry roast them for about 6-8 mints at medium flame or till they turn out slightly golden. Keep an eye on them while roasting them.
In a blender or mixer, add all the ingredients- cooked chick peas, Tahini paste or ( toasted sesame seeds)  lemon juice, grounded pepper , garlic , olive oil, black pepper powder and salt. Blend all, if needed add very little water, just to rotate the mixer blades.

Take out in a bowl, garnish with more olive oil and crushed red chilly flakes. A smooth and delicious dip is ready as a side to many appetizers or roasted vegetables or a typical Turkish style meze. You can garnish with finely chopped parsley as well.

Happy Cooking Friends

Friday, March 20, 2015

Black Eyed Beans Sundal- Lobia Sundal Recipe

I would really like to feel solace in warm weather, as mother nature switches herself into a milder climate over here, and  it’s also first day of Spring/ Vasanta season. Finally spring is here and with that, all those beautiful spring blossoms to lay eyes on. And also to greet us today, a rare sight of partial solar eclipse in UK.It was predicted earlier, but not in sight as of now where we live, as it’s cloudy outside, well then its normal weather up here and a working day also. Even then there are reasons, or may be no reasons to update this blog. Well, it has become a routine for me. And when it becomes a routine, you don’t need reasons to do things even if it’s first day of spring or a day with partial solar eclipse or may be a day in “Chaitra Navaratri “ or a special day like “Ugadhi” and “Gudi –padwa” .And did I mention reasons to update the blog, how predictable , sometimes  , most of the times, I can be.

Sundal is a very traditional stir/fry recipe from south India. There is chick –pea sundal, rajma sundal or moong dal sundal and many more variations on this. Well I am no authority in sundal, but a beginner, and really like simple stir/fry recipes of lentils or legume preparations. And this way of making legumes, lentils is easy for me and to you also. Black eyed beans/ lobia beans are cooked with a mustard seeds + coconut tempering, so the name lobia sundal.Without much exaggerating here , I now jump to write the simple and yet delicious preparation from down South India.

Lobia Sundal – Black eyed Beans Sundal (stir/fry)
Recipe requirements
250 Gms of cooked black eyed beans or 1 pre-packed tin of cooked black eyed peas
½ cup of scraped/grated coconut – desiccated may work as well
For tempering
½ tsp of black mustard seeds
2-3 dry red pepper
½ tsp of salt or as per taste
2-3 tbs of cooking oil
Pinch of hing (asafetida)
 Two handfuls of curry leaves
Cook pre-soaked black eyed beans in a pressure cooker for two whistles. You can use pre-packaged tins of cooked black eyed beans also.
Heat up a pan, add in cooking oil, temper it with mustard seeds, red pepper, and curry leaves and pinch of hing.
Add in desiccated coconut, it would be better to use freshly scraped coconut if you can get it easily.
Now add in cooked black eyed beans, adjust salt .If you wish you can add black pepper powder.
Cover it and let cook for about 10-12 mints at med-low flame.
Your delicious black eyed beans sundal is ready. 
A great snack in these chaitra Navaratri days.

Wish you all a very happy Ugadhi and Gudi-Padwa…Happy Cooking 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Gajar Ki Barfi - a Sweet Recipe with carrots and Happy Holi

It looks like I haven’t updated the blog for a long time. But then today is a special day also, being Holi , a recipe post is compulsory, isn’t.Ok, but before I jump to write the recipe.First,Wish you all a very happy Holi, may the festival of color brightens your life with hope, happiness and prosperity.
As of now, I have some sweets for you all, gajar ki barfi. Carrrots are cooked, with ghee, dry fruits and khoya and then the end product is, you all know how sweets are.Ek baar khao to khate he raho!!

Now to the recipe for gajar ki barfi ….
Gajar ki barfi- A sweet recipe with carrots
Recipe requirements
  •  4-5 medium size carrots- make 3 cups of grated carrots roughly
  •  1 cup of whole milk
  • ½ tsp of cardamom powder
  •  Half a tin of condensed milk
  •  3-4 tbs of plain flour
  • ¼ cup of white poppy seeds
  •  ½ cup of sugar or as per taste
  • 1 cup of ghee or melted butter
  •  1cup of chopped cashews+walnuts

  • Wash and clean carrots, grate them with a steel grater /shredder.
  • Put a pan on heat, add milk and put the shredded carrots. Let the milk completely dry up. Keep on stir/fry so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cooking is done at medium flame.
  • Now add in chopped and toasted cashews and walnuts pieces. Add in cardamom powder as well.
  • In a separate pan, add in butter about 1-2 tbs, and stir/fry the white poppy seeds for about 5-6 mints or till they barely change into light brown in colour.
  • When the milk has dried up, add in melted butter or ghee. Allow the time to mix ghee and carrots well.
  • Add in condensed milk and keep on stir/fry at medium flame for about 10-12 mints. At this stage the mixture will be runny due to the addition of condensed milk. Allow the milk to dry up.
  • Now, add in stir/fried white poppy seeds to the mixture. Keep on stir/fry so that it doesn’t get stick to the base. Add in plain flour. Once you add in plain flour the mixture will start, collecting well. I have used condensed milk+ plain flour in place of khoya (plain flour acts as a good binder to the mixture).If you get or make fresh khoya, and then you can use it as well. Just wanted to add, khoya is also known as mawa in Hindi, and kheer in Bengali.
  • When the mixture has started to collect well, leaving the sides of the pan easily, stop cooking it further.
  • Now grease a plate with some ghee, and scoop out the mixture over it. With the help of a spoon, flatten the carrot mixture evenly. Allow it to cool. Once it gets cooled, cut it into square barfi.Gajar ki barfi is ready.
  • Sprinkle some toasted white poppy seeds all over. They are soft in texture, unlike the usual commercialized other barfi that we get.
  • Store in fridge and consume within 3-4 days.

And Have a Very Happy Holi 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Spaghetti Pasta cooked with Prawn, Cherry Tomato and Red Chard Tender leaves

We have liked pasta recipes and it’s not a hidden secret from this blog’s readers like you.Our weekend nights are mostly pasta nights, and in the past I have shared other pasta recipes as well.Today it's spaghetti pasta with prawns, cherry tomato , red chard tender leaves cooked in marinara sauce.

I had spaghetti pasta, and was thinking to use them up soon.As the school half term holidays have started here with this weekend, I have to find ways for making my daughter enjoy her food and also keep her entertained.This spaghetti pasta was well received and appreciated by her today as her lunch.Although I will say ,this still can be cooked for a lazy weekend Valentine night celebrations, in case you don’t fancy, eating out and paying hefty sums.What ever be the occasion, love doesn't need a particular day.Every day is a lovable day, and it’s up to us how we make it beautiful.
I also happened to pick prawns this time, and wanted to make chingri - malaikari, but then thought will use it up in this pasta preparation, so this "Chingri pasta recipe" was ready.I had greens like red chard tender leaves and wild rocket leaves, which also increased the nutrients factor, so as those juicy cherry tomatoes.With all those vegetables and prawns, this spaghetti pasta recipe turned out very delicious.Now to the recipe

Spaghetti pasta cooked with prawn, cherry tomato and red chard in marinara sauce
Recipe requirements
  • Half a packet of spaghetti or roughly 250 Gms of spaghetti
  • 300 Gms of prawn- head and tail removed
  • 1 medium size onion
  • 4-5 fat cloves of garlic
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 big juicy ripened tomato
  •  1 red bell pepper, - sun-dried pepper even better
  • 2-3 handfuls of red chard tender leaves
  • 1 hand full of rocket leaves

  • ¼ tsp of Italian dried herb mix
  •  1 small twig of fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp of red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp of salt or as per taste
  • 3-4 tbs of cooking oil/olive oil
  •  2-3 heaped tbs of any pasta sauce (skip if using ripened tomato)
  • 2 tbs of red wine (optional)

  • Heat up a large saucepan filled with water. Let it come to one boil; add in half a tsp of salt to it and few tsp of cooking oil. Add in uncooked spaghetti to it and let it cook for 8-10 mints. Scoop out about a 1 ½ cups of this pasta water and discard rest of water.
  • Clean prawns, and take off the head and tail.Marinate this with little salt and keep aside.
  • Now heat up a separate cooking pan, add in olive oil, and add in chopped garlic. Let it stir/fry it to get a nice brown colour.Add in chopped onion. Let it stir/fry it for 4-5 mints.
  • Add in cherry tomatoes, and red bell pepper. Adjust seasonings with salt and red pepper powder.
  • Add in marinated prawns. Add in red chard leaves. I have also used rocket leaves which give a nice peppery flavor.
  • Add in the reserved pasta water/starch and pasta sauce to it. You can even use fully ripened tomatoes for the sauce and pureed tomato is even better. Add in red wine if you wish to use, which forms base of the marinara sauce.Add in fresh thyme now.
  • Let this sauce cook well on its own juices with cherry tomatoes, prawn, red bell pepper and red chard leaves.
  • After about 10 -12 mints, add in cooked spaghetti, toss and mix well.Stop cooking it further.
  • At the time of serving, garnish with your preferred cheese and red chilly flakes.

Happy Cooking Friends

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lobia Keema Curry- Black Eyed Beans cooked with Lamb Mince

We saw season’s first snow today, excited? Yes, you can presume as such .And who doesn’t like snow, but then if the snow starts melting, it’s another story altogether.While it’s snowing heavily far across Atlantic Ocean in US, we are happy and contended to get about an inch of snow here.Well, I wouldn’t even dare to think 10 inches of snow, as that would ring an alarm bell for me.As of now, update is, it’s melting away, oh! Things of joy don’t last for ever, it always is short-lived, but the memory that it creates always resonate.

With this cold and grey weather, we really crave to eat some spicy food, and lobia- keema curry is one such dish.As our family struggled with seasonal flu and cough, this hot and spicy preparation was well appreciated by my folks.There is of course a vegetarian version, and that will be to skip lamb mince all together, or may be adding up soya mince- vegetarian option for meat mince.But if you like non-vegetarian meals, then this is very appetizing.You can even make this  curry in bulk and store in batches in fridge, but try to consume within 2-3 days.And trust me, next day , when the flavours are well incorporated, this turns out more flavourful.
Well it does remind of Mexican Chilli, although I haven’t included other vegetables or cheese or kidney beans or pinto beans, in to this curry.This is a spicy preparation, if you are making it for little kids, reduce the red pepper powder.Actually I have used red bird-eyes chili pepper / Thai chili for this preparation, which is considered one fo the hot peppers, so you can guess the hotness of this curry.
Lobia Keema Curry – Black Eyed Beans lamb Mince Curry
Recipe requirements (serves 3-4)
  • About 500 Gms of cooked lobia/ black eyed beans or use 1 pre-packed tin of black eye beans
  • 500 Gms of lamb mince/ mutton keema

For the gravy
  •  1 large tomato
  • 2 medium size purple onions
  • 3-4 fat pods of garlic
  • ½ inch ginger root

For the seasonings
  •  ¾ tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp of red pepper powder
  •  ¾ tsp of Kashmiri red pepper powder
  • 1 heaped tsp of coriander powder
  •  ¾ tsp of cumin powder
  • 3/4  tsp of cinnamon powder
  •  ¾ tsp of nutmeg powder
  • ½ tsp of cardamom powder
  • 2-3 Red bird’s eye chily slit in between
  • Salt as per taste
  • Pinch of asafetida
  • ¼ cup of cooking oil
  • Method

Prepare Black eyed Beans- lobia
  • Soak about 2 -3 cups of dry lobia/black eyed beans in ample water for about 6-7 hrs. You can even soak them in warm water for 2-3 hrs in case you are running short of time. Or even use pre- packed tins. I have used approx 2 – 3 cups of cooked lobia for this curry (1 can serves well for 3-4 people). You can even use 2 tins to increase more beans in the curry.
  • Now pressure cook  black eyed beans/lobia  for one whistle at high, lower the flame and let it cook further for about 10-12 mints. Open once the pressure subsides. Reserve this for later use.

Now prepare the keema- lamb mince
  • Chop finely all the ingredients- onion, ginger, garlic and tomato. If you don’t like chopping then, wet grind those in a mixer adding little bit of cooking oil. I have even added some of the dry masala ingredients while making the onion+ginger+garlic paste, so add turmeric powder, red pepper powder, kashmiri red pepper powder, cumin-coriander powder to make a smooth paste.
  • Now heat up a large vessel enough to hold keema, lobia and the gravy. Add in cooking oil. Add in pinch of asafetida, and then add in the prepared masala paste. Add in slit bird eye chili.Adjust salt.
  • Now let it stir/fry it further for about 9-10 mints at medium high flame, splash some water if the paste starts to stick on the base. Once the paste has turned dark in color and the oil starts separating out, add in lamb mince.
  • Keep on stir/fry the lamb mince for about 10-15 mints. Add in cinnamon powder+nutmeg powder+cardamom powder. You can even use garam masala as well. Splash little water if it tends to become very dry.
  • Now add in about 2 cups of lukewarm water and the cooked beans with all the water if any left after pressure cooking it.
  • Cover the vessel and let it cook slowly for about 1 hr at low flame. Alternately you can put the entire thing in a pressure cooker. Let one whistle at high and then lower the flame, so that it can cook on it’s own for about 10 mints. Open once the pressure subsides.Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
  • Enjoy with rotis or rice. I had it with cooked couscous and cherry –avocado salad.

Bird eye chilly adds the hotness to this curry, skip it if you do not like very hot and spicy curry.The same recipe goes well with rajma- red kidney beans as well.

Happy Cooking friends

Friday, January 23, 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
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…..

Wednesday, January 14, 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

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.


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

  • 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 .....