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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Niramish potoler dolma...


Potol or Parwal (pointed gourd) is a common summer vegetable in India. It's a love or hate vegetable. Either you like it or you don't. I fall in the first category. Whether it is fried and served with dal and rice or curried with some potato or prepared with some poppy seed paste(potol posto) I love them all. There are several other way pointed gourd is cooked in a Bengali household. One of the popular preparations is Dolma, stuffed pointed gourd with fish or minced meat. The non vegetarian version is very popular. I remember the day after my marriage ceremony I tasted some awesome fish stuffed pointed gourd, specially prepared for me and my husband. I had a concept that potoler dolma or stuffed pointed gourd can only be made with non-vegetarian stuffing. But I was wrong. The vegetarian version tastes as good as the non-vegetarian one, if not more.

It was a baby shower party of my cousin, their family has a custom of preparing everything vegetarian for  this occasion. There were several delicious dishes, but for me the stuffed pointed gourd was the show stopper. So this time I tried to recreate that in my kitchen. I do not know the exact recipe, I relied on my memory of what I ate that day and prepared this niramish potoler dolma. And it came out finger licking good.

The dish a bit complicated and time consuming, as one need to scrape the pointed gourd, prepare the stuffing, stuff it, fry it and dunk it in the gravy. The recipe involves several steps, but the end result is so good that I'm sure you won't mind. First of all try find out some extra large pointed gourd, that will make easier to scrape the core. To scrape the inside of the pointed gourd cut only a small part from each ends and with the back of a spoon scrape out the soft core of the vegetable only from one side, keep the other side sealed. Do not throw away the scraping, I added it to the coconut and poppy seed stuffing I made . But if you find the seeds are too hard then discard it.


As I mentioned, I made a coconut and poppy seed stuffing for this dish, I also added the scraping of the pointed gourd in my stuffing, blended well with some salt, sugar and green chilies. Make sure the stuffing is not watery. While making the paste in a food processor or grinder add as little water as possible. And also make sure not to over stuff the pointed gourds, or else the stuffing will come out while frying.


Things needed to make Niramish Potoler Dolma:


  • Potol (pointed gourd): 10-12


For the stuffing:


  • Coconut (freshly grated): 1 cup
  • Poppy seed paste: 1/4 cup
  • Green chilies: 2-3
  • Salt to tatse
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp


For the gravy:


  • Coconut (freshly scraped): 1/4 cup
  • Poppy seed: 3 tbsp
  • Black mustard: 2 tbsp
  • Yogurt: 100 gm
  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Sugar: 2 tbsp
  • Kalojire/kalonji/onion seed: 1 tsp
  • Dry red chili: 2-3
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Green chilies (slit lengthwise to garnish): 2-3


Steps of making Niramish potoler dolma:


1. Wash the pointed gourd(potol) very well. Pat them dry. With the help of knife scrape the outer dark green skin. Do not peel the skin. Cut a small part from each ends. Using back of the spoon scrape out the inner soft core from one side. Keep the other side sealed. Rub little salt to the pointed gourds and keep aside.

2. In a bowl mix little water and yogurt and blend it well till smooth, keep aside. Make a paste of coconut, poppy seed, black mustard, green chilies for the gravy, keep aside.

3. Make a smooth paste of freshly scraped coconut, poppy seed, green chilies, salt and sugar. Make sure the paste is not watery. Add very little water, only few teaspoons while making the paste. Keep

4. Stuff the pointed gourd with the coconut stuffing. Do not over stuff.

5. In a kadhai or deep pan heat mustard oil, fry the stuffed pointed gourd till nicely browned. Keep aside.

6. In a fresh kadhai or pan heat mustard oil, when the oil is hot add onion seeds and dry red chilies. As the seeds splutter add the yogurt, and the paste made for the gravy, cook over low heat for 5-6 min, or till oil separates. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt, sugar, mix well. Add the fried stuffed pointed gourd, add little water, let it boil, cover and cook for 5-6 min. switch off the heat. Transfer it to a serving bowl.

7. Sprinkle mustard oil, garnish with slit green chilies, serve with rice.


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Friday, July 24, 2015

Doi ilish...


The sun hiding behind the clouds, thunderstorms, the aroma of rain drenched earth and the pitter patter of raindrops on the window...Monsoon, the relief from the scorching heat of summer is a much awaited season in India. Monsoon is extremely important to people of this subcontinent, it irrigates and sustains the crops, it nourishes the greens around us, fills up the water bodies.

To be very honest, sometimes I do not enjoy rain much. I complain about the puddles of water on the road during daily commute, I get irritated with water logged streets and overdose of rain, but monsoon has it's own charm. And being a foodie I relate everything to food, and Monsoon is no exception. The cooling rain and a lazy afternoon with some crispy pakoras and a cup of hot tea is nothing but bliss.  

The reason I can overlook all the negative sides of this season is a fish, the Hilsa, the fish no Bengali can resist. Hilsa and monsoon are synonymous to me. As mangoes are to summer, hilsa are to monsoon. The silver shiny fish is the king of all. Taste, texture, flavor nothing compares to it. So for this monsoon special event I made a very simple but traditional hilsa recipe, doi ilish,  i.e. hilsa cooked in a yogurt and mustard gravy.

The ingredients are very simple and easily available. Fresher the fish, tastier will be the dish. The recipe calls for black mustard paste. To make black mustard paste, soak the mustard seeds for at least an hour in water and grind with a pinch of salt and green chilies.




Things needed to make Doi Ilish:


  • Hilsa fish cut into steaks: 4-6
  • Yogurt: 100 gm
  • Black mustard paste: 1/4 cup
  • Green chilies: 4-5
  • Kalojire/ onion seed: 1/4 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook


Steps of making Doi Ilish:


1. Beat the yogurt with a little water and keep aside.

2. Smear the fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder, let it rest for 15-20 min.

3. In a kadhai or Indian wok, heat mustard oil (3 tablespoon), when the oil is hot, fry the fish for 1 min on each side. Take out from pan and keep aside. Do not overcook,

4. In the same oil add kalojire (onion seed/kalonji), green chilies, as it splatters add the yogurt. Cook over low heat for 4-5 min. Add the mustard paste and the fish pieces, add salt. Cover and cook for 10 min.


This post will be part of the the Monsoon special event  of  Kolkata food bloggers.


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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Thai basil fried rice...


I love one pot meals. A balanced dish with lean meat and carbohydrates with a simple crunchy salad perfectly suits my mid-week dinner plan. Last Wednesday I prepared fried rice, but not the usual one. It was Thai style fried rice. (Here you can check my better than take out fried rice recipe.)

When it comes to Thai food, first thing comes to our mind is the explosion of flavor from lemongrass, kaffir lime, thai basil, holy basil, and the strong sharp smell of fish sauce and of course the heat from fresh red chilies.

For this fried rice I used Thai basil as the key ingredient. Thai basil leaves are much narrow leaves with purple veins and stem, widely used in Thai cooking along with holy basil (tulsi). It has its beautiful aroma, very difficult to describe, but once you use them will absolutely love this herb for sure. While cooking with Thai basil make sure not to cook it for a long time, or else it will lose its beautiful smell.

A bunch of Thai basil was sitting in my pantry. The original plan was to prepare my favorite Thai red curry with chicken, unfortunately for some reason it didn't happen. But how could I waste those fragrant leaves, so came up with this idea of using them in a Thai basil fried rice.

This fried rice takes very little time to cook. I used previously cooked jasmine rice, any good quality long grain rice is good for this dish. If you are using freshly made rice, make sure the rice is completely cooled down before adding it to the wok. I used chicken as the protein to my dish and for the veggie quotient I added a handful of green peas and diced carrots. Prawns, broccoli, beans, are some other options can be used in this fried rice.


This Thai style fried rice is a bit spicy, to bring the heat I used fresh red chilies. The dish gets the distinct flavor from fish sauce and Thai basil. If you don't have fish sauce in your pantry, I insist to have one immediately, you don't know what you are missing. 



Things needed to make Thai Basil Fried Rice:

  • Cooked rice: 4 cups
  • Chicken breast (cut into thin strips): 200 gm
  • Garlic (finely chopped): 1 tbsp
  • Onion (chopped): 1/2 cup
  • Green peas: 1/2 cup
  • Carrots (diced): 1/2 cup
  • Red bell pepper (chopped): 1/4 cup
  • Fish sauce: 2 tsp
  • Dark soy sauce: 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
  • Brown sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Fresh red chili (thinly sliced): 2-3 tsp
  • Sesame oil: 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
  • Fresh Thai basil leaves (chopped): 1/2 cup
  • Fresh coriander leaves (chopped): 1/3 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper powder to season
  • Vegetable oil to cook



Steps of making Thai Basil Fried Rice:


1. Wash and pat dry the chicken breast, cut into thin strips. Marinate the chicken strips with salt, black pepper powder, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil for 15 min.

2. In a wok heat oil, cook the chicken strips over high heat for 2-3 min, take out and keep aside.

3. Add little oil to wok, I use use the same wok (just wipe it with a kitchen towel to make sure there is no pieces of chicken left). When the oil is hot, add the garlic, cook for 1 min. Add chopped onion and carrot, sprinkle a little salt and cook. when the carrot turns a bit tender add the green peas. I used frozen peas, if you are using fresh green peas then blanch them before using them. Add chopped red bell pepper, cook over high heat for 2-3 min.

4. Add chicken pieces, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar (white sugar can be used), fresh red chilies, mix well, add cooked rice. Add salt if needed. Fish sauce is very salty so be careful before adding extra salt to the rice. Cook over heat for 1-2 min, keep tossing the rice, taking caring not to break the grains.

5. Reduce heat, add Thai basil and coriander leaves, mix well. Switch off the heat.

6. Serve with a fried egg and thickly sliced cucumber.


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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sunehera chicken...


Friday evenings are usually time to relax and unwind for me and my family. The fact that you do not need to set the alarm clocks for next morning is such a relief. I guess it is the same for everyone too.

Unwinding to me is  usually either putting my feet up and getting lost in books or fiddling around in the kitchen to try to put together something special for me and my family. This Friday, it was a chicken curry with some homemade naan bread.

I didn't follow any particular recipe while making this dish, just went along with my instinct. The chicken was marinated for 9 hrs in the refrigerator. The marination I used was a basic one, just onion, garlic, ginger, yogurt mix. To bring in a nice color and flavor I added few strands of saffron.


While marinating the chicken I wasn't really sure about the gravy but wanted something creamy that can go along the naan I was planning to serve it with. My little one really liked the end result- soft and succulent chicken in a lightly sweet  creamy golden curry.

I didn't even think of posting this recipe, but the little one in my house as well as the man insisted that I must post this recipe as it tasted so good. And since this wasn't very planned, I ended up with only a single image for the final dish. Because of the beautiful creamy texture and golden color I named the dish 'Sunehera' chicken, sunehera means golden in Hindi. You can try this at home and let me know whether the name justifies the dish.



Things needed to make Sunehera Chicken:

  • Chicken: 500 gm

For marination:
  • Lime juice: 1 tbsp
  • Salt: 2 tsp
  • Black pepper powder: 1 tsp
  • Yogurt: 1/2 cup
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Onion paste: 3 tbsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Saffron: few strands


For gravy:
  • Thinly sliced onion: 2 cups
  • Cinnamon stick: 1 stick
  • Green cardamom: 3-4
  • Dry red chili: 3-4
  • Coriander powder: 2 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 3 tsp
  • Green cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Almond paste: 3 tbsp
  • Poppy paste: 2 tbsp
  • Saffron (soaked in warm water): few strands
  • Salt to taste
  • Honey to taste
  • Oil and ghee to cook


Steps of making Sunehera Chicken:


1. Clean and wash the chicken pieces. I used chicken with bone, can be done with boneless chicken pieces too. Pat dry with kitchen towel. In a bowl mix all the ingredients for marination, marinate the chicken pieces for minimum 2 hrs, better if marinated overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Slice onion as thin as possible, heat oil in a kadhai (Indian wok), when the oil is hot fry the onion slices to brown. Drain excess oil and transfer in a bowl.

3. In a kadhai or pan add ghee, when hot add cinnamon stick, whole green cardamom, dry red chili, cook for 1 min. Add the fried onion. Keep a few to garnish.

4. Shake off the excess marination and add the chicken, cook over high heat for 4-5 min. As the chicken changes color, add the remaining marinade and coriander powder, red chili powder, mix well. Cover and cook over medium flame till oil separates. Add  cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, mix well. If needed add salt.

5. Add a little hot water and let it boil. Reduce the flame to low, add almond paste and poppy seed paste, mix well. Cover and cook for 10 min. Add honey, saffron soaked water, mix well. transfer into a serving bowl, garnish with fried onion and slivered almonds. Serve with some naan or roti.


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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Coconut Chutney...


Idli, dosa, uttapam are few items I often make for breakfast and my daughter's lunch box. To accompany the idli, dosa or uttapam my little one makes sure that I make some coconut chutney. Everyone in my family loves this coconut chutney. Easy to make, no cook, a complete hassle free delicacy.

The recipe I follow to make this coconut chutney is passed on from a good friend of my husband. My husband's friend Annu is from Kerala. I have heard so many stories of their college days, how the boys used to devour dosa and chutney from her lunch box and how skillful is A's mom at cooking finger licking food, specially dosa and idlis at home. Once I was making dosa and my husband told me about this recipe to make coconut chutney of her friend's. A e-mailed us the special heirloom recipe, and from then on I'm a big fan of this recipe. It's been more than ten years and I'm still following exactly the same recipe while making coconut chutney. So here it's for you all, a simple coconut chutney to go with dosa or idli. It also works great in between two slices of breads.






It takes hardly 10 minutes to make the chutney, the time consuming part is to scrape the coconut. To reduce the work load frozen grated coconut can be used, but I will recommend of using fresh coconut. To scrape the coconut I used my traditional Bengali coconut scraper (Narkel kuruni). I have grown seeing my mother, aunts using this and me too use this on regularly.

Ingredients for this chutney are very simple and easily available. The curry leaves are home-grown :) In many recipes, specially the restaurant style, chana dal (bengal gram) is added to this chutney, but I prefer without it. The process is also as easy as it could be, put all the ingredients in a grinder and make a smooth paste, and you are done.






Things needed to make Coconut Chutney:



  • Fresh coconut (scraped): 1 cup
  • Onion (diced): 1 tbsp
  • Ginger (chopped): 1 tsp
  • Yogurt: 2 tbsp
  • Curry leaves: 12-14
  • Green chilies: 2-3
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to grind
  • Vegetable oil: 1 tbsp
  • Brown mustard and curry leaves for tempering

Steps of making Coconut Chutney:


1. Take all the ingredients except the brown mustard and curry leaves for tempering, put them in a grinder and make a smooth paste. Pour the chutney in a bowl.

2. In a pan heat oil, when hot add brown mustard and curry leaves, as it splatters switch off heat. Pour the oil and the seeds and the leaves over the chutney. Store chutney in an air tight container in the refrigerator.


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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Homemade Flour Tortilla...


I have developed a taste for Mexican food during my four year stay in Texas. I still remember the very first fajita I had and it was love at first bite. Gradually I learnt different Mexican recipes and tried them in my kitchen. Tortilla is an essential part of Mexican food. It is a flat thin and round bread, very similar to our Indian roti or chapati. Tortillas can be made from both corn flour and wheat flour.

The history of tortilla dates back to 10,000 BC. Tortillas were an important part of the Aztec diet. When Spanish people came to Mexico during 1519, they found this round bread made from maize, they named it tortilla(little round bread). Traditionally a special kind of corn flour (masa) is used to make tortillas. With the influence of the Europeans wheat flour is also used to make tortillas and are very popular. Tortillas can be of different sizes, ranging from a diameter of 6 inches to 30 inches depending on the dish for which it is intended. Tortilla is a basic building block of several delicious dishes, taco, burrito, tortilla chips, quesadilla are few to name.


Making tortilla at home is very easy. It needs only few ingredients, flour, salt, baking powder, oil and water. Traditionally vegetable lard is used to make tortillas, but at home I use olive oil. You can use vegetable oil also. The steps are very simple, I have tried explain it with pics. Start with mixing the flour, salt and baking powder, then add the olive oil and mix well with the flour mixture.


Then gradually add water and pile up into a dough. Make sure the water is warm, not hot. I usually warm the water in microwave oven for 12 sec. Make a round smooth dough.


Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 min. After 15 min, knead the dough lightly and make 12 equal sized dough balls.


Dust the working surface with little flour and roll the dough into a 6 inch round thin flat disc. I mostly fail to make a perfect round, never mind.


Preheat a flat pan or skillet, place the rolled tortilla into the hot skillet and cook till bubbles start to appear.


Flip the tortilla and cook till golden brown spots appear. Remove from the skillet and store in a closed container.


Your tortillas are ready, use them to make a simple wrap or as a thin crust pizza base or for something Mexican like taco, burrito etc, options are endless.

Things needed to make Flour Tortilla:


(Yields 12 tortillas)
  • All purpose flour: 2 cups
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Olive oil: 3 tbsp
  • Warm water: 2/3 cup
  • Flour to dust


Steps of Making Flour Torlilla:


1. In a bowl take flour, salt and baking powder, mix well. Add oil and mix thoroughly to well incorporate with the flour.

2. Gradually add warm water and make a soft dough. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 min.

3. After 15 min, knead the dough lightly and make 12 dough balls.

4. Dust the working surface with little flour and with the help of a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into flat rounds (about 6 inch in diameter).

5. Preheat a heavy bottom flat pan or skillet over medium high heat, place the rolled tortilla into the pan, wait till bubbles starts to form. Flip and cook till small golden brown spots appear. Remove from the skillet and store in a container with lid. Continue with other dough balls.

6. To store the tortilla, let them cool down completely, put them in a zip-lock bag and store in refrigerator.


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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mango Relish...


I know it seems like ages since I  last posted something on my blog. Our move from US to India  and the whole bit about getting things  back on the groove was one of the reason why I went into this hibernating mode. Thanks to my well wishers and friends who mailed or messaged me to inquire my well being and kept my morale up.

Yes, I am back and thanks to my in-laws for  being the trigger to get things moving again by sending those bagful of home grown mangoes. It forced me to think and find some way to preserve them before they are wasted.


Mangoes are the most awaited fruit during summer. There is hardly anybody, who doesn't like this juicy fruit. Moreover the mangoes I get here in India from my in law's orchard are best possible one can get, no pesticides, no artificial ripening agents.  For me nothing compares to how a juicy, sweet mango tastes.

Being seasonal,  summer time  means  waiting for mangoes to hit the market. Luckily this year the crop has been better. Even after having them at breakfast, as dessert after lunch, or making a glass full of chilled mango lassi were not enough to finish them all. So I thought of making a relish from them. This relish can be used in thousands different ways, as a spread for your sandwiches or to dip some crunchy nuggets or as a glaze while grilling meat and seafood.


The ingredients are simple and easily available. Before you start, taste the mangoes first, if they are super sweet like the ones I used, then you do not need to add any sweetening agent. As the souring agent you can use either vinegar or lime juice, as per your choice. I added fresh red chilies to spice up the relish, dry red chilies or red chili flakes are also good. At the end I added a little Indian touch to the relish, adding some roasted and coarsely ground cumin seed.


For a change I used a traditional Bengali mortar pestle (shil-nora) to coarsely ground the rosated cumin seeds. Those who haven't seen a shil-nora, here is an image for you. It's a flat stone(shil) where the things need to grind are kept and small cylindrical stone piece(nora) is used to grind.







Things needed to make the Mango Relish:


  • Sweet mango (cut into small cubes): 2 cups
  • Onion (chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Ginger (julienned): 1 tsp
  • Red chilies: 1
  • Cumin Seeds (roasted and coarsely ground): 1 tsp
  • Vinegar or Lime juice
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp
  • Vegetable oil : 1 tbsp


Steps of making the Mango Relish:


1. Wash the mangoes well. Peel and cut them into small cubes. Discard the seed.

2. Roughly chop the onion. Peel the ginger and cut into julienne. Slit the red chili and fine chop. If you need the relish to  be less spicy, discard the seeds of the chili. The one I used were super hot. If you can't get your hands on fresh red chilies, use dry red chilies or chili flakes.

3. In a pan, dry roast the cumin seeds till it releases a nice aroma. Let it cool down and grind the roasted cumin seeds coarsely.

4. In a pan, heat oil. I used vegetable oil as it's neutral in flavor. You can use olive oil or mustard oil if you like to.

5. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and cook for 1 min. Add the chopped onion and cook till a little soft.

6. Add the cubed mangoes, salt and vinegar or lime juice(whichever you are using). The amount of vinegar or lime juice depends on the sweetness of the mango. Adjust by tasting. And of course if you are using lime juice it will also bring a nice fresh flavor to the relish.

7. Cover and cook for 15-20 min. Smash the mangoes with the back of your ladle, add the red chilies. Mix well. Cover and cook for 5-6 min. I did not add any sugar or honey, as the mangoes were very sweet. If you find the mangoes are not that sweet then add sugar or honey to balance the taste.

8. Add the freshly ground cumin seeds, mix well. Switch off the heat. Let the relish cool down. Pour it in a clean dry glass jar with a tight lid, store in the refrigerator.



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