Monday, May 23, 2016

Chicken pulao...

Last week was a difficult one for me. The minor surgery I had to undergo resulted in restrictions in movement and thus my daily routine. Never mind the associated pain, missing a planned dine out with my friends due to this was more agonizing. But as the saying goes - everything has it's silver lining, I managed to get an uninterrupted break with the support of pain killers and other meds. The man was in charge of the kitchen and other household works. I enjoyed the egg curry for lunch and some not so round paratha for dinner. Yes, being sick now and then is not so bad after all. So this Sunday it was my turn to treat him and of course my little one who relentlessly tried her best to help me and comfort me in her small little ways.

As I'm still recovering and not as mobile as I used to be,  I planned  a quick and easy dish. An one pot meal that only needs pickled onion and raita to go with. It was a chicken pulao, long grain basmati rice cooked along with chicken pieces. My daughter loves biryani, so I flavored the pulao with my homemade biryani masala, and the special touch was adding a handful of mint leaves to make the dish aromatic and refreshing.

Check my Mutton biryani or Chicken biryani recipe for the birynai masala recipe.

I used India Gate basmati rice to make the pulao. The long grain basmati is best of the quality, I use it to make pulao, biryani or simply boil to perfection to go with some dal or curry.

Things needed to make Chicken Pulao:

Serves: 4
  • Basmati rice: 2 cups
  • Chicken: 8-10 pieces
  • Onion (thinly sliced): 1/2 cup
  • Onion (cubed): 1/4 cup
  • Ginger (chopped): 1/2 tbsp
  • Garlic: 7-8 cloves
  • Green chilies: 2-3 (optional)
  • Yogurt: 4 tbsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Biryani masala: 1 tbsp
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Cinnamon: 1 inch stick
  • Clove: 4-5
  • White peppercorn: 1 tsp
  • Milk: 2 cups + 2 tbsp
  • Warm water: 2 cups
  • Saffron: few strands
  • Mint leaves: a handful
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil to cook
  • Ghee or clarified butter

Steps of making Chicken Pulao:

1. Make a smooth paste of the diced onion, chopped ginger, garlic, green chilies (if using). In a small bowl take 2 tablespoons of warm milk and soak the saffron strands.

2. Wash and clean the chicken pieces and pat dry. Marinate the chicken pieces with yogurt, freshly made onion paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder. Marinate overnight or for at least 3 hrs.

3. In a heavy bottom pan heat oil, fry the thinly sliced onion till red-brown in color. Take out the fried onion and keep aside on a paper lined plate. Take care not burn the onions while frying. This step is optional, I personally like the sweet crispy caramelized onion, so took the pain to add this. If you have less time in hand just skip this step.

4. Wash the rice till water runs clear, soak the rice.

5. In a heavy bottom pan (you can use the same pan used to fry the onion, just drain the excess oil) heat 3 tablespoons of oil, when the oil is hot add green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and white peppercorns. As the cloves start to splutter add the marinated chicken and cook over high heat for 3-4 min. Add salt, mix well, cover and cook over medium heat for 5-6 min. Uncover and cook over high heat till oil separates and water from the chicken dries up.

6. Drain the rice and add the soaked rice to the chicken, add salt, biryani masala, a tablespoon of ghee, mix well.

7. Add warm water and milk. Add salt. Cook till the liquid starts to boil, as it boils reduce the heat cover and cook till all the liquid is absorbed. Switch off the heat, sprinkle saffron soaked milk and handful of mint leaves, half of the fried onion, cover and let stand for half an hour.

8. Just before serving very gently transfer the pulao to the serving bowl. Sprinkle fried onion and fresh mint leaves while serving. Serve with pickled onion, raita.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Fish in mustard sauce...

Fishes are an integral part of the daily diet of people of Bengal. The geographical attributes of Bengal is the reason behind fish being the part of the cuisine. Being a state with many rivers running through it, multiple fresh water ponds and lakes along with a  long coastal region, fishes are available in abundance. So from ages we Bengalis' are eating various kind of fishes and now it's a  part of tradition and most of us can't think about a meal without fish. Today I'm sharing a quintessential Bengali dish and an all time favorite in my family, Sorse bata diye pabda mach, which translates to Pabda fish in mustard sauce.

Pabda is a fresh water cat fish. This pink bellied Indian butter fish is very tasty. Bengalis prefer sweet fresh water fishes over sea fishes, and pabda fits the category. It's soft, delicious and sweet. This particular fish can be cooked in various different ways, but I prefer it with mustard sauce. Equal amount of white and black mustard are ground to a smooth paste along with green chilies. The fishes are fried and further cooked in the mustard paste. Any other fish, like rohu, bhetki, salmon, cod etc can be use instead of pabda.

Things needed to make fish in mustard sauce:

  • Pabda fish or any other fish of your choice: 6 pcs
  • Mustard paste: 1/4 cup
  • Green chilies: 5-6
  • Red chili powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Kalojire or kalonji (black seed): 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1-2 tsp
  • Fresh coriander: handful
  • Mustard oil to cook

Steps of making fish in mustard sauce:

1. Clean and wash the fish. Pat dry. Smear salt and turmeric and marinate for 15-20 min.

2. In a pan heat mustard oil, when the oil is hot fry the fishes till golden. Take out the fried fishes and keep aside. Fry one of two fish at a time. If you are using pabda, make sure the oil is smoking hot or else the fish will stuck to the pan, and use a cover while frying pabda fish as it tends to splutter.

3. To make the mustard paste, take equal amount of yellow and black mustard seeds. Soak the mustard seeds for 30 min in cold water, wash well and strain. Grind the soaked seeds with a pinch of salt and green chilies, add little water as needed, make a smooth paste.

4. In the same pan add oil if needed, add kalojire (black seed) and green chilies. Add the mustard paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder (optional) and little water, mix well and cook over low heat for 2 min. Add the fired fishes, warm water (half cup), salt, chopped fresh coriander, cover and cook for 5 min. Turn the fishes and cook for another 3-4 min. Transfer to a serving bowl or plate, drizzle some raw mustard oil and garnish with green chilies and chopped coriander. Serve hot with steamed rice.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dal and Achari bhindi...

This year the summer is showing it's rage to the people of Kolkata. It was officially spring when it started feeling like mid of summer here. I don't remember when was the last time I experienced this kind of terrible heat for such a long stretch of time, without any rain or the usual respite of 'Kalboishakhi' (the nor'wester). Many schools have declared holiday due to this adverse weather.

Due to this weather kitchen is one place I dread to step in. I'm relying  more on fruits, yogurt, juices to avoid working in the kitchen for long duration. For lunch or dinner I am sticking to simple and quick to cook dishes.

It's not only hot and humid weather, but the fact that very few varieties of vegetables fishes are available in the market  in this time of the year  in Kolkata makes your options so limited.You can't but stick to lentils and try to find different ways to cook it. 

Today for lunch I made a simple dal tadka and to go with that was a flavorful achari bhindi, pickle flavored stir fried okra. For the dal I mixed three different kinds of lentils, red lentils (masoor), yellow lentils (toor or arhar) and black lentils (urad dal).

Things needed to make Dal Tadka:

  • Split red lentils (masoor dal): 1/2 cup
  • Split yellow lentils (toor dal): 1/4 cup
  • Split black lentils (urad dal): 1/4 cup
  • Onion (finely chopped): 1
  • Ginger (grated): 1 tsp
  • Tomato (chopped): 1'
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves: 12-14
  • Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1/4 tsp
  • Dry red chilies: 3-4
  • Asafoetida (hing): 1/8 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee or clarified butter: 1-2 tsp
  • Vegetable oil: 2-3 tbsp
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Steps of making Dal Tadka:

1. Wash the lentils till the water runs clear. Soak the lentils for 30 min.

2. In a pressure cooker heat 2 tablespoons of oil, when the oil is hot add the chopped onion, cook till transparent. Add grated ginger and chopped tomatoes, cook for 4-5 min. Add the soaked lentils, turmeric powder, salt, water and close and pressure cooker and cook the dal. Switch off heat and wait till pressure is released.

3. In a pan heat ghee along with little oil, when the ghee is hot add asafoetida (hing), mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chilies and curry leaves. As the spices splutter, pour this into the cooked dal, mix well. Check seasoning, adjust accordingly. Serve hot.

Things needed to make Achari Bhindi:

  • Bhindi (Okra): 200 gms
  • Onion (sliced): 1
  • Garlic (thinly sliced): 2-3 cloves
  • Ginger (julienned): 1 tsp
  • Tomato (sliced): 1
  • Paanch foron or Bengali five spice mix: 1 tsp
  • Dry red chilies: 2-3
  • Green chilies: 2-3
  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Amchur (dry mango) powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook

Steps of making Achari Bhindi:

1. Wash the okra, pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut the okra into long pieces.

2. In a pan heat oil, when oil is hot add the okra with little salt and turmeric powder, cover and cook over low heat for 4-5 min. Cook uncover over high heat for 5-6 min or till okra is cooked. Take out the okra and keep aside.

3. In the same pan, add oil (if needed). when oil is hot add paanch foron or bengali five spice mix, dry red chilies, ginger and garlic, cook till the seeds splutter. Add onion cook till transparent. Add tomato, salt, red chili powder, cumin powder and mix well. Cook till tomatoes and mushy. Add fried okra and green chilies and little sugar. Mix well. Add amchur powder and serve hot.

I serve the dal and bhindi with steamed rice. It goes well with rotis too.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Chanar dalna...

Chanar dalna is a popular Bengali delicacy. It is made from homemade cottage cheese or Chana. This delicious curry is prepared without using any onion and garlic, for that this is often made during auspicious occasions like puja when eating non-vegetarian food including onion garlic is prohibited. I do not need any special occasion to make this curry. My daughter loves this and I often make this for her. While making this for regular family lunch or dinner I keep the curry simple, but to celebrate a special occasions and entertaining guests I add almond and cashew nut paste to the curry and that makes the gravy extra special, thick, creamy and finger licking good. I also add cubed potatoes to the curry, as no curry is complete for a Bong sans the potato. When fresh green peas are in season I also like to add a handful of green peas to the chanar dalna.

As one need freshly made cottage cheese or chana for this curry, the process may sound long and time consuming. But once you taste the melt in mouth soft cottage cheese balls you will agree to the humdrum procedure.

The first step is to curdled the milk using lime juice or vinegar. Make sure to use whole milk or full fat milk. The curdled milk is then strained and round dumplings are made from the fresh cottage cheese. Instead of making dumplings the cottage cheese can be cut into square, rectangular or triangular pieces. The dumplings are then deep fried in oil. The fried dumplings are dunked into a simple tomato based gravy. This gravy is made without onion or garlic.

Use a strainer and cheese cloth to collect the curdled milk. Do not throw away the whey, it is full of nutrition and can be used to make dough for bread, roti, naan etc. The whey can be stored for few days in the refrigerator. After collecting the curdled milk hold it in the cheese cloth and wash it under cold water. This helps to wash out the smell of lime or vinegar used for curdling the milk.

Leave the washed curdled milk wrapped in the cheese cloth on the strainer to drain out excess water. This way you can make cottage cheese at home. Cottage cheese is very healthy and easy to digest. There are hundreds of ways to use the cottage cheese. One can simply spread it over toasted breads along with honey (for sweet version) or fresh herbs, salt, black pepper (for savory version).

For this particular recipe the cottage cheese needs to be kneaded till smooth. The best way to do that is to use the heel of the palm. After kneading the cheese equal size balls are made. Traditionally flattened round balls are made, but one can use their imagination and shape them as they like.

The cheese balls are fried in oil till brown. I also add cubed potato to the curry, this is optional.

Things needed to make Chanar Dalna:

(Serves 4)

To make cottage cheese:

  • Whole milk: 2 lts
  • Lime juice: 3-4 tbsp
  • special equipment: strainer, cheese cloth

To make the cottage cheese dumplings:

  • Homemade cottage cheese: 2 cups
  • Cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar: 2 tbsp
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Oil to deep fry

To make the gravy:

  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Clove: 2-3
  • Cinnamon: 1 inch stick
  • Bay leaves: 2
  • Dry red chili: 3-4
  • Cumin: 1 tsp
  • Tomato : 1 large
  • Yogurt: 3-4 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee or clarified butter: 1-2 tsp
  • Almond and cashew nut paste: 2 tbsp (optional)
  • Potato: 1 (optional)
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • Vegetable oil to cook

Steps of making Chanar Dalna:

To make cottage cheese or chana:

1. Boil milk in a heavy bottom pan. As the milk rolls to boil reduce heat and add lime juice or vinegar, stir. The milk will curdle and whey will separate.

2. Strain the curdled milk and collect the cottage cheese in a cheese cloth. Wrap the cheese cloth around the cottage cheese and wash the cheese under cold water.

3. Place the cheese on a strainer to drain out excess water.

To make the cottage cheese dumplings:

1. Knead the cottage cheese or chana well, till no lumps. Add salt, sugar, cardamom powder and baking powder, mix well and make equal size balls. From 2 cups of cottage cheese 16-18 balls can be made.

2. Heat oil in a pan, fry the cottage cheese till evenly brown. Take out and keep aside. Any vegetable oil can be used.

3. If adding potatoes to the curry, peel the potato and cut into cubes. Fry the potato cubes and keep aside.

To make the curry:

1. In a pan or kadhai heat 3 tbsp oil. When the oil is hot add, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, bay leaves, dry red chili, cumin seeds. As the spices release a nice aroma add ginger paste and finely chopped tomato. Cover and cook over low heat till the tomato is done.

2. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder, kashmiri red chili powder, mix well and cook for 1 min. Add yogurt, mix well. Cover and cook till oil separates. Add warm water, salt, sugar. let the gravy boil. If adding potatoes, add the fried potatoes at this stage, cover and cook till the potatoes are almost done.

3. Add the almond and cashew nut paste (if using). Cover and cook for 5 min. Add the fried cottage cheese balls, garam masala powder, ghee or clarified butter. Switch off the heat. Cover the curry and let it rest for 10 min. Serve hot with pulao, roti, luchi etc.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Tandoori spiced grilled whole fish...

Bhetki is a popular fish in Bengal, which is commonly known worldwide as barramundi or Asian sea bass. The white flaky flavorful fish is cooked in many different ways in a Bengali kitchen. Sorse bhetki (bhetki fish cooked in mustard gravy), kalia (spicy fish curry), bhetki with cauliflower are few common dishes conjured up in Bengali households. Special dishes like Bengali style fish fry, paturi (fish cooked in mustard paste wrapped in banana leaf) are very popular and frequently served in specialty restaurants and during special occasions.

I have few bhetki recipes on my blog:

We cook fishes mostly with their bones in and I prefer bhetki as it has very few bones. I'm lucky to stay in Kolkata, where I get fresh bhetki in my local fish market. And the fish seller cleans the fishes according to your directions and they are so skillful at this. If you are staying outside India and looking for bhetki fish, try to find perch or Asian sea bass in Asian stores. Red snapper, tilapia are few other fishes that can be cooked this way.

This time I used a whole bhetki fish and marinated it with tandoori masala. Before marinating the fish I made diagonal slices about half an inch deep on the both side of the fish. This helps the marination to flavor the meat of the fish. I used homemade tandoori masala, store bought one can also be used.
To know how to make tandoori masala at home go to this link Tandoori chicken recipe.

 I grilled the marinated fish on a pan. It can also be cooked in an oven or grilled over a charcoal grill. This recipe can be done with fish fillets, but in that case cooking time will be less.

Things needed to make tandoori spiced grill fish:

(Serves 2)

  • Whole bhetki fish scaled, gutted, fins and gills removed: 1
  • Lime juice: 1 tbsp
  • Salt: 1and 1/2 tsp
  • Black pepper powder: 1 tsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tsp
  • Garlic paste: 2 tsp
  • Tandoori masala: 2 tbsp
  • Greek yogurt or hung curd: 3 tbsp
  • Butter (melted): 2 tbsp
  • To garnish and serve: sliced tomato, onion, wedges of lime, chopped coriander

Steps of making tandoori spiced grill fish:

1. Wash the fish. Pat dry with kitchen towel. Make 3-4 diagonal slices 1/2 inch deep on both side of the fish. Marinate the fish with lime juice, salt and black pepper powder. Make sure to put lime juice in the slices on the fish.

2. In a bowl mix yogurt, tandoori masala, butter. Apply the marination on the fish. Marinate the fish for 30-45 min. If you are planning for a big batch of fishes you can marinate the fishes over night and keep them in a ziplock bag overnight.

3. To cook on pan: Heat a heavy bottom non stick pan. Rub a teaspoon of butter on the pan. Cook the fish over medium heat for 10 min each sides. Increase the flame and cook for 2-3 min more to get a nice color on the fish.

4. To cook in oven: Preheat oven at 180C or 375F. Arrange tomato and onion slices on a baking dish large enough to fit the whole fish. Place the marinated fish on the onion and tomato layer, bake for 20-25 min. Turn on the broiler for 3-4  min. Baste the fish with melted butter during half way of cooking.

Serve hot with sliced tomato, onion and lime wedges. Chat masala can be sprinkles over before serving.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Red lentil with Bengali five spice...

Today I'm sharing a simple everyday dish from my kitchen. Lentil or dal is a staple in every Indian kitchen. We Indians eat various kind of lentils and legumes. I personally like red lentil a lot. Apart from red lentil takes very little time to cook, it is tasty, high in nutrition and low in calorie.

In a Bengali household the most common way to cook red lentil (or what we call 'Masoor dal" in Bengali) is with Bengali five spice, the "Panch foron'. Panch means five and foron means tempering. Panch foron is a mix of five seeds, fennel seeds, onion seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and celery seeds. These mix of seeds are frequently used in many Bengali dishes. Along with its beautiful aroma this spice mix is very healthy too. If you do not get Bengali five spice in store near you, mix the above mentioned seeds in equal amount in a bottle and give a good shake you are ready with your "Panch foron". 

Things needed to make Bengali style Red lentil:

Serves: 4-6
  • Red lentil: 1 cup
  • Onion (thinly sliced): 1/2 cup
  • Garlic (thinly sliced): 1-2 cloves
  • Panch foron or Bengali five spice mix: 1 tsp
  • Dry red chili: 2-3
  • Green chili: 2-3 (optional)
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Mustard oil: 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh Coriander chopped: handful

Steps of making Banglai style Red lentil:

1. Wash the red lentil till the water runs clear. To reduce cooking time soak the red lentils for 20-30 min.

2. In a heavy bottom pan or kadhai heat oil. I used mustard oil, olive oil can also be used. When the oil is hot add dry red chilies, garlic, Bengali five spice cook till the seeds start to splutter.

3. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook till brown, add red lentil, salt, turmeric powder and 2 cups of hot water. Let it boil. As it start to boil, reduce the heat and cook till the lentils are done. Stir in between, if you find the lentils are getting too dry add more hot water. Do not add too much of water. This dal will have a thick consistency. Add chopped green chilies (if using) and fresh coriander. Serve hot with rice.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cheese n herb bread...

Whenever I want to unwind or relax, I bake. Measuring all the ingredients, mixing them and finally when the aroma of the freshly baked bread or cake or cookies fills the room it feels magical. Research says baking satisfies our creative needs as well as all the processes involved in baking soothes our senses and releases some of our tension. For me baking a loaf of bread is the best cure for my blues.

Many are intimidated by baking bread at home. But in fact baking bread at home is much cheaper and very easy. Like anything you haven't tried before baking bread may sound daunting. But once you overcome the first barrier there is no looking back. I started 5 years ago and I bake at least one bread a week.

This time I made a cheese and herb bread. I used mild cheddar, mixed herbs and also chili flakes to flavor the bread. 

Things needed to make cheese and herb bread:

  • All purpose flour: 3 cups
  • Active dry yeast: 2 and 1/4 tsp
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Water: 1 cup + 1/4 cup
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Cheddar cheese (grated): 1 cup
  • Mixed dried herbs: 2 tbsp
  • Chili flakes: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Olive oil: 3-4 tbsp

Steps of making cheese and herb bread:

1. Proof yeast. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of the stand mixer, mix yeast, 1/4 cup warm water and sugar, cover and wait for 10 min, till the yeast bubbles up. Do not use hot water, the water should be just warm to touch (110 F/43 C). 

2. Add two cups of flour to the proofed yeast, rest of the water, salt, herb, chili flakes, oil and mix with a spatula. If you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook and mix the dough on low speed (3-4). Gradually add rest of the flour and the grated cheese, keep mixing.

3. If using stand mixer, knead the dough over high speed (6) for 5-6 min. If kneading with hand, dust the working surface with flour and knead the dough for 10 min, stretch the dough away from you, fold, turn and repeat the steps. For reference you can check my other bread recipes, focaccia, braided bread 

4. Grease a large bowl with oil, put the dough in it, cover and keep in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours.

5. Lightly dust the working surface with flour, plop the dough on it. With a gentle hand make a rough rectangle of 9 by 12 inches. Now fold the bottom third up, just like we fold a letter, then fold the top third down so it overlaps the other part, now pinch to seal the top and bottom layers and also the sides, now it should be a rectangle of 9 by 4 inches. Don't worry if the shape is not perfect, make sure you pinch all the sides to seal them properly. Before folding the dough I also added little more grated cheese, this is optional.

6. Put the dough in a greased 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. Cover, and let the dough rise for 30 min. When you put the dough in the pan it may look uneven but after the rise it will fill the pan.

7. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated and bake for 25-30 min. You can sprinkle more cheese on top just before putting the dough into the oven.

8. Take out the dough from the pan carefully and let it cool down on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy your bread.

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