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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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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Guacamole...


Now a days avocado is very popular among health conscious people. I was first introduced to this nutritious fruit during my stay in Texas. I still remember how unimpressive the green mash looked, when the restaurant guy placed a bowl of guacamole, but the taste was exactly the opposite. After coming back home I read a lot about avocado and came to know how good it is for our health.

Avocado can be consumed in many different ways, the easiest one is to make a bowl of guacamole. Those who are frequent to Mexican restaurants must be familiar with guacamole. It is nothing but mashed ripe avocado with seasonings. The best part of guacamole is one does not need to cook anything. This no cook super food can be ready in a jiffy. I use tabasco sauce to bring the heat to the guacamole, but green chilies or jalapenos can be also added instead. Guacamole can be served with tortilla chips as dip, or as sandwich spread. It is advisable to make guacamole fresh, as avocado when comes in contact to air turns dull brown in color. If you need to store excess guacamole, cover the surface with a cling film and store in the refrigerator.

The most difficult thing about avocado is to buy a good one.  I guess you know what I'm saying, standing in front of the avocado filled basket in a market and judging which one is perfectly ripe is not easy. The other problem one may face is during cutting this fruit, but that will be only for the first time. And in this age of google and youtube you can search and do almost anything by yourself without asking for help. After all cooking is not rocket science, all you need is a little love.

Unfortunately I do not get good quality avocado in Kolkata. Even if they are available,  the price is exorbitantly high. I really miss avocados. The images here are from a long pending draft that I prepared years back. 


Things needed to make guacamole:


  • Avocado (preferably hass avocado): 2
  • Onion (finely chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Honey: 1-2 tbsp
  • Tabasco: 1-2 tsp
  • Lime juice: 1 tsp
  • Fresh coriander: 2-3 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper powder: a pinch

Steps of making guacamole:

1. Cut the avocado lengthwise, twist to open the fruit. Discard the brown seed. With the help of a spoon take out the flesh. Mash the green flesh with a forck.

2. Add all the other ingredients, mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, sweetness accordingly. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No recipe chicken curry...


Chicken curry is the most frequently cooked dish in my kitchen. Mostly I follow the recipe I have learnt from my mom. Sometimes I try my hand on restaurant style dishes. But last Sunday I was not in a mood to follow any recipes, that's the reason I call it a 'no recipe' chicken curry. I just kept on cooking from my mind. I slow cooked the chicken and did not add any extra water. I let the chicken cook in it's own water and at the end added a handful of fresh coriander to give the dish a special touch. The end result was a scrumptious bowl of chicken curry, loved by all in my family. So before I forget what I put in that curry let me share it with you all.


Things needed to make the chicken curry:

  • Chicken on bones ( a whole chicken cut into 12-14 pieces)
  • Onion (very thinly sliced): 2 cups
  • Garlic: 7-8 cloves
  • Tomato: 1 (large)
  • Ginger (grated): 2 tbsp
  • Green chili: 2-3
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Cinnamon: 1 stick
  • Cloves: 4-5
  • Shah jeera or Black Cumin: 1 tsp
  • Black peppercorns: 10-12
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1tsp
  • Cumin powder: 2tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1tsp
  • Coriander leaves: 1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Potato: cubed and fried (optional)
  • Mustard oil or olive oil to cook

Steps of making the chicken curry:


1. Clean and wash the chicken pieces.

2. Make a paste of garlic, ginger, tomato and green chili, keep aside.

3. In a large heavy bottom pan or kadhai heat 3 table spoons of oil. I used mustard oil, that gives a different taste to the dish. Olive oil can also be used. When the oil is hot add the sugar and let it caramelize. This will give the curry a nice color.

4. Add the whole spices, as the cloves splutter add thinly sliced onion. Fry the onion till brown.

5. Add the chicken pieces, cook the chicken with the onion over high heat for 7-8 min. Keep turning the chicken pieces.

6. Reduce heat add the ginger-garlic-tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 min.

7. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, kashmiri red chili powder, salt, mix well. Cover and cook over low medium heat for 40-45 min. Keep stirring in between. The chicken will cook in it's own water. I did not add any extra water. Check the salt, adjust accordingly. If you like your curry to be spicy add stilted green chilies. Add garam masala powder and chopped fresh coriander. Serve hot with rice or roti.

Note: If you want to add potato to this curry, peel and cube the potato and fry them. Add the fried potato pieces 10 min before the curry is done.


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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Gajar halwa...


Hope you all have started the new year with a bang. Though I know its  a week late, but it's never late to wish you all a very happy new year.

It's the first post of this year and I think it's apt to begin with a sweet note. Hope this year I will be more regular on  putting up blog updates and sharing delicious recipes with you all.

Today I'm sharing a very popular dessert recipe, gajar halwa or carrot halwa, a famous sweet dish from North India. I make this very often at home, specially during winter when juicy red carrots are in season. The recipe is simple and requires only few ingredients. I use milk powder or grated mawa (unsweetened solidified milk) whichever available with me at the end to give the halwa a rich texture, this step though is optional.



Things needed to make Gajar Halwa:

(serves 2-3)
  • Carrots (grated): 2 cups
  • Whole milk: 1 and 1/2 cup
  • Ghee: 1 tbsp
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Sugar: 6-8 tbsp
  • Milk powder: 3 tbsp
  • Raisins: 15-20 (soaked in water)
  • Almonds blanched and thinly sliced: 2 tbsp
  • Pistachio blanched and thinly sliced: 1 tbsp


Steps of making Gajar Halwa:

1. Clean and wash the carrots. Peel the carrots and grate.

2. In a heavy bottom pan heat ghee, when hot add crushed green cardamoms. Cook for 1 min. Add the grated carrot. Mix well, cook over medium heat for 3-4 min, keep stirring.

3. Add warm milk and cook till the milk is almost dry. Keep stirring in between. Add sugar, start with 6 tablespoons of sugar, add more depending on your taste.

4. Add the milk powder. You can add unsweetened mawa (solidified milk) instead of milk powder. Mix well. Cook till the mixture dries, keep stirring. Add the sliced nuts and raisins.

5. Transfer to serving bowl, garnish with almonds and pistachio. This can be serve either hot or cold. I prefer mine hot.


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