Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lentil with lime leaves...

Yesterday I prepared a simple dal for lunch, a typical Bengali lentil soup, but something that turned it special. The dal was flavored with the leaves of Gondhoraaj lebu. Gondhoraaj literally means king of aroma and it is native to Bengal. These are somewhat similar to kaffir lime. From a welcome drink to main course to desserts, these elongated thick skinned large limes work wonder. Usually these limes are cut lengthwise into wedges and served along with Bengali meals, either a simple dal or a spicy bowl of mutton curry, it uplifts every single dish.

I remember during my stay outside India how I used to crave for these fragrant limes. I know people who wouldn't mind to drive three hours to buy some 'Gondhoraaj lebu'. Now that may sound eccentric but once you experience the aroma of these limes, and know how it can transform your simple food you will see the justification. Luckily I do not need to drive miles to get them. Whenever I visit to my in-laws I bring back a bagful of those bounties along with some leaves, which are equally fragrant and can be used in various dishes. Homegrown ingredients are bliss. And specially when it's something exotic like 'Gondhoraaj lebu' then you can't help to take out the camera to click few pics before enjoying them with your meal. At my in-laws place two different varieties of limes are grown, one is large thick and rough skinned, and the other ones are smaller, smooth skinned, both are packed with heavenly aroma.

I made a dal or lentil soup, and added the leaves to the dal. This dish is called 'Lebu pata diye dal' or lentil with lime leaves, a very common dish in any Bengali household, specially during summer. The flavor of the lime leaves has a cooling and refreshing effect. I used skinned mung dal for this.

Things needed to make Lebu pata diye dal (lentil with lime leaves):

(Serves: 4)
  • Skinned mung dal: 200 gm
  • Ginger (finely chopped): 1 tbsp
  • Green chilies: 3-4
  • Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Lime leaves: 4-5
  • Lime juice: 1-2 tsp
  • Ghee: 1 tbsp
  • Oil: 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste

Steps of making Lebu pata diye dal (lentil with lime leaves):

1. Dry roast the lentils in a heavy bottom pan, till the lentils start to change color, take care not to burn them. Wash the roasted lentils till water runs clear. Cook the lentils, a pressure cooker can be used.

2. In a pan or wok heat oil and ghee, when hot add cumin seeds and let it change color to brown. Add green chilies, chopped ginger, cooked lentil and turmeric powder. Add the lime leaves. Leaves can be cut into thin strips or just roughly torn by hand. Add salt and sugar as per taste. Let it boil. Reduce heat and cook for 2-3 min. Switch off heat add lime juice. Serve with steamed rice.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016


I'm not an expert when it comes to cook in microwave, I mean solely using the micro feature. Grilling and the convection mode are frequently used but the microwave mode is only used for re-heating food in my house. It works wonder when I need to dehydrate herbs or to blanch almonds.

So when Indrani a co-blogger and a member of Kolkata food blogger announced an event to cook something using microwave and solely microwave not the grilling or convection option, my first thought was  that I need to pass this. But before saying 'quit' I gave it a little thought and came up with this very simple easy idea of making sandesh in microwave. I make sandesh very often to lure my kid to eat homemade cottage cheese or chana, which is  usually  falls in her "reject" category.

I'm sure you all know about Sandesh. It is a a signature Bengali sweetmeat, commonly made from cottage cheese and sugar. No ocassion or festival is complete without a plate full of Sandesh. Sandesh can be of different shapes and sizes. And it can be flavored in many different ways, cardamom, saffron, rose water, chocolate, seasonal fruits, there is no limit.

A basic simple sandesh is made from homemade cottage cheese or chana. Milk is curdled and the whey is separated and cooled. The whey is then mixed with sugar or other sweetening agents and flavors cooked slightly and shaped into sandesh. Cooking in a pan makes the sandesh making very tiring, using microwave this can be made in 5 minutes.

Make the cottage cheese
Knead the cottage cheese well, add flavors and put it in a microwave safe bowl
Take it out and let it cool down

Cut into pieces

Things needed to make Sandesh:

  • Milk (full fat): 1 lt
  • Lime juice or vinegar: 3-4 tbsp
  • Sugar as per taste
  • Green cardamom (powder): 1/2 tsp
  • Saffron (soaked in milk): few strands
  • Pistachio (finely chopped) to garnish
  • Dried rose petals to garnish

Steps of making Sandesh:

1. In a heavy bottom pan boil milk. when the milk rolls to boil add lime juice or vinegar to curdle it. As the milk curdles switch off the heat.

2. Place a cheese cloth on a strainer and strain the curdled milk, drain excess water from the whey. Let the curdled milk cool down. I place the cheese cloth with the curdled milk in a ice bath, that cools it down quickly as well as washes out any smell of lime juice or vinegar used for curdling the milk. When the water from the curdled milk is drained off the cottage cheese is ready to use.

3. Take the cottage cheese in a plate, add green cardamom powder, saffron (soaked in warm milk), sugar. Add sugar as per your taste. For 1 cup of cottage cheese start with 6 tablespoons of sugar, taste and add more if needed. Knead it well till smooth.

4. Take a microwave safe bowl, grease it with little ghee or butter. Put the cottage cheese in the bowl. Press with your finger to make sure the cottage cheese is evenly distributed.

5. Cook it in a microwave oven, in micro mode in high power for 5 min or till the cottage cheese starts to bubble up. Let it stand for few minutes, take it out of the oven and cool down.

6. Cut into square or any shape of your choice. Garnish with chopped pistachio, almonds or any other nuts and dried rose petals. Serve cold or at room temperature.

This post is going to the online event "Microwave Expedition" of Kolkata Food Blogger hosted by Indrani Dhar of Recipe Junction.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thai red curry noodle soup..

What to cook? is a more difficult question for me than who landed  a rover on Mars, specially for weekday dinner. Someday you do not feel like picking up the knife, pots and pans and to cook. Eating out may be a solution, but I avoid that on weekdays as much as possible and try my best to prepare something fresh and healthy for my kid.

To do this, I usually plan ahead. During weekend, I plan for the weekdays meal, and it really helps. I buy things accordingly on  the weekend and stick to my plan. Yes, at times I  do slip,  may be due to health issues or just lack of energy. But mostly I  try to follow my laid out plan.

When it comes to quick meals on weekdays I prefer one pot meals. That can be cooked on a single pan. Reducing the hassle of cleaning as well as a more elaborate cooking process. This is the reason why I often cook dishes like pulao, biryani, baked pasta, noodles loaded with veggies, baked meat etc.

Today it was a spicy noodle soup with some juicy prawns. As everyone in my family prefers spicy food,  I  love making Thai food at home. Thai curries are loaded with so many flavors and it suits our Indian palate very well. Thai curry pastes (red, green or yellow) are available in the market, but I prefer to make it from scratch.

I do not measure the ingredients while making the curry paste, just follow my instinct and my taste buds. I have tried my best to give measurements, the best way is to taste the curry paste while making it, add chilies if you like it hot, add fish sauce if you need to increase the salt or add more sugar to balance the sweetness. This soup can be made with chicken or with only vegetables of your choice.

Things needed to make thai red curry noodle soup:

(Serves 3-4)

For the noodles:
  • Noodles
  • Water, enough to cook the noodles
  • Salt: 2 tsp
  • Oil: 2-3 tsp

Red curry paste:
  • Red bell pepper (chopped): 3-4 tbsp
  • Bird's eye chili: 2-3 
  • Galangal or ginger (chopped): 1 tsp
  • Lemongrass (inner part): 1 inch
  • Coriander seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • White peppercorn: 1/2 tsp
  • Kaffir lime leaves: 2
  • Fish sauce: 1-2 tsp 
  • Palm sugar or brown sugar: 1-2 tsp
For the soup:
  • Prawns: 8
  • Babycorn (cut lengthwise): 1/2 cup
  • Tofu (cut into flat strips): 1/4 cup
  • Red bell pepper (cut into thin strips): 1/4 cup
  • Thai basil to serve
  • Coriander to serve
  • Coconut milk; 
  • Oil

Steps of making thai red curry noodle soup:

1. In a grinder take all the ingredients for red curry paste and make a smooth paste. Taste and adjust the salt and sweetness by adding fish sauce and palm sugar respectively. White sugar can also be used. Keep the red curry paste aside.

2. In a large pan (like a pasta pan), boil water with salt. Cook the noodles according to the package instruction. Drain the noodles, toss some oil in the noodle and keep aside.

3. In a pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil, Stir fry the baby corn, bell pepper or any other vegetables of your choice for 2 min. Take out and keep aside. In the same pan add little more oil and cook the tofu over high heat for 1 min each side. Take out and keep aside. In the same pan cook the prawns over high heat for 2 min each side, take out and keep aside.

4. Add 2 teaspoons of oil in the same pan, add the red curry paste, cook for 2-3 min. Add coconut milk, let it boil over medium heat. Add prawns, thai basils, kafiir lime leaves. Cook for 3 min. Transfer into a serving bowl.

Note: If you want to add chicken to the dish, add boneless chicken (cut into thin strips) when the coconut milk starts to boil, cover and cook over low medium heat for 5-6 min.

5. To serve: In a soup bowl add cooked noodles, stir fried vegetables, prawns and pour some soup. Garnish with fresh coriander and thai basil.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Lauki kofta...

Koftas generally refer to meatballs made of minced meat of beef, lamb or chicken are mixed with spices shaped to round balls and are fried. Unlike middle eastern and central asian cuisine,  you can find many vegetarian varieties of kofta too in Indian cuisine. Potato, paneer, banana, bottle gourd etc are mashed or grated to make koftas. These koftas are then dunked in a  flavourful and spicy gravy to prepare a delicious curry. Kofta curries are very popular in India, be it veg or non-veg.

Today I made lauki or bottle gourd koftas, a vegetarian curry without onion and garlic. I was planning for this dish for a long time. Few months back I saw a tempting image of Lauki kofta in Instagram account of @playfulcooking. This proved to be a trigger. Kankana's blog is full of such delicious clicks. Do visit her space and enjoy all those drool worthy food pics.

Lauki or bottle gourd is a also know as opo squash or calabash. The fruits of this vein grown plant are eaten as vegetable. Lauki is very healthy as it's rich in dietary fibers, and contains extremely low fat and cholesterol.

To make koftas from bottle gourd the first step is to grate the bottle gourd. And as bottle gourd contains 96% water, all the water from the grated bottle gourd needs to be squeezed out. The bottle gourd juice is very good for our health. The juice can be taken as a health drink or can be used to make the curry. I used it in the curry. The curry I made was without any onion and garlic. Though onion and garlic can be added in the curry as per choice.

Things needed to make Lauki kofta:

(Serves: 4)

For the koftas:

  • Bottle gourdor lau or lauki (grated): 2 cups
  • Chickpea flour: 1/4 cup
  • Green chilies (finely chopped): 2-3
  • Ginger (grated): 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Oil to fry the kofta

For the gravy:

  • Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Dry red chilies: 2-3
  • Bay leaves: 1-2
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Cinnamon: 1 inch
  • Cloves: 3-4
  • Ginger (paste): 2 tsp
  • Tomato (paste): 2 tbsp
  • Yogurt: 2-3 tbsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Oil: 2 tbsp
  • Ghee: 1 tbsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Steps of making Lauki Kofta:

1. Wash and peel bottle gourd. Grate the bottle gourd. Take the grated vegetable in a cheese cloth and squeeze out all the water. Collect the bottle gourd juice, keep aside.

2. In a pan or kadhai heat enough oil to deep fry the koftas. In a bowl take the grated and drained bottle gourd, chickpea flour or besan, grated ginger, chopped green chilies, garam masala powder, salt, mix well and make round koftas. Fry the koftas to even brown color. Take out and keep aside.

3. Clean the pan, heat 2 tablespoon and 1 tablespoon of ghee, when hot add cumin seeds, dry red chilies, bay leaves. Crush the green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves in a morter pastle and add it to the oil.  As the spices release a nice aroma add ginger paste, tomato paste and cook for 3-4 min over low heat. Add cumin powder, turmeric powder, kashmiri red chili powder, mix well. Add a little (2-3 tablespoons) warm water and cook for 2-3 min.

4. Add yogurt, cook till oil separates. Add salt and sugar to taste. Add the bottle gourd juice and let it boil. Add the fried kofta. Cook for 5-6 min. Sprinkle garam masala powder and little ghee. Transfer into a serving bowl garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with rotis or rice.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Harissa grilled prawns...

I love seafood, specially prawns and crabs. So when I saw fresh tiger prawns in the market, happily bought a bagful of those beauties. I usually prepare prawns in traditional Bengali way or try to do something very simple. This time, I marinated the prawns in some freshly made harissa paste and grilled them.

Harissa is a very spicy chili sauce, from Tunisia. It is sometimes referred as the national condiment of Tunisia. The main ingredient in this sauce is chili, along with garlic and other spices like coriander, caraway, cumin. There are several variations of this sauce, addition of red bell pepper, tomato, onion depending on ones taste makes this sauce a versatile one, But remember this is a very spicy sauce, a good amount of red chili goes into this. It can be made milder using milder chilies, or using roasted red bell pepper or tomato. 

I used some roasted red bell pepper, to bring down the heat, the roasted bell pepper gives the sauce a smoky flavor too. I added coriander, caraway and cumin to the sauce and used dry red chilies for the heat. I used the common Indian dry red chilies, which are quite hot. Different chilies like chipotle, ancho, or milder chilies like Kashmiri red chilies can also be used.

Harissa can be used in several different ways, to cook rice, vegetables, tofu, paneer, meat, or as a spread over pizza.

Things needed to make Harissa Grilled Prawns:

Serves: 6
  • Prawn: 500 gms 
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Lime juice: 2 tsp

For the harissa sauce:
  • Dry red chili: 1/4 cup
  • Garlic: 4-5 cloves
  • Caraway seeds: 1 tsp
  • Coriander seeds: 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
  • Red bell pepper: 1
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil: 2 tbsp

  • Sliced or wedged lime
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Olive oil

Steps of making Harissa grilled prawns:

1. To make the roasted red bell pepper: Take a red bell pepper, wash and wipe off water. Grease the red pepper with olive oil and roast it on direct flame or inside an oven. If using an oven, place the red pepper on a baking sheet and place in a preheated oven at 200 C for 30-40 min. If cooking on direct flame, keep rotating the bell pepper till roasted evenly. When the red pepper turns charred remove from fire (or oven) and keep inside a paper bag for 15 min. Take out from the paper bag and carefully remove the charred skin, cut the head and discard the seeds and the membrane of the pepper. Chop the red pepper into small pieces. Keep aside.

2. To make the harissa sauce: Soak the red chilies in hot water for 15-20 min. Take out the red chilies from water cut and discard the seeds, roughly chop the chilies. In a grinder or food processor take coriander, caraway and cumin seeds and grind them to powder. Add chopped garlic, roasted red pepper and chopped red chilies, olive oil (2 tablespoons), salt, make a smooth paste. Store the paste in a air tight glass container. Pour olive oil on top of the harissa sauce for storage.

3. To grill the prawn: Clean the prawn, devein, pat dry and marinate with salt and lime juice. Add harissa paste to coat all the prawn pieces. Marinate for 15-20 min. Put the prawns in skewers. Heat a griddle, grill the prawns for 3-4 min, keep turning in between. I was using small prawns, it took me 3-4 min to cook them. If the prawns are larger in size they will take more time to cook. Depending on the size of the prawns adjust the cooking time.

Serve immediately with lime slices or wedges. I added few fresh mint leaves.

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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.

This post is going for the Kolkata food bloggers online event 'one pot meal'. Check KFB page for other delicious preparations on this event. 

If you like to get regular updates from me go to my Facebook page and click on the Like button. You can also follow my blog on NetworkBlogs. Thank you..!!!