Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mutton Noorjahani...

Mutton Noorjahani, I'm sure just like me, many of you are not familiar with this name. I came to know about this dish for the very first time was from my culinary expert friend Jhum, when she made Chicken Noorjahani. Somehow never got a chance to make the dish. But when I saw a mouthwatering photograph of that same dish with mutton(goat meat) on my friend ( a well known photographer) Sayntan's Facebook page, I could not resist myself. I decided to cook this dish. It was so awesomely gorgeous I can't even describe. 

I must thank Sayantan for his tempting photograph that forced me to cook this dish and a huge thanks to his better half Rani for the recipe.

The recipe referred about Randhuni seeds. But unfortunately we do not get Randhuni here in the US. I always substitute that with celery seeds, but that's a mere compromise. So I googled about Noorjahani dishes and found the use of aniseed/ anise seed. Aniseed belongs to fennel family and has a very similar aroma. So if you do not get aniseed, you can substitute that with fennel.

Aniseed/anise seed

Here is the way I did my Mutton Noorjahani..

Things needed to make Mutton Noorhajani:

  • Goat meat: 1 kilo/ 2.2 lb
  • Onion (thinly sliced): 1 cup
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Yogurt: 1 cup
  • Bay leaves: 3-4
  • Dry red chilies: 5-6
  • Green chilies: 3-4 (depends on the amount of heat you can handle)
  • Cinnamon (1 inch stick): 2-3
  • Green cardamom: 3-4
  • Cloves: 5-6
  • Black cardamom: 2
  • Star anise: 2-3
  • Aniseed: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Milk: 1/3 cup
  • Saffron: few strands
  • Oil: 3 tbsp
  • Ghee/ clarified butter: 1 tbsp
  • Grated papaya or meat tenderizer
  • Whole shallots and cherry tomato to garnish (optional)

Steps of making Mutton Noorjahani:

1. Clean and wash the goat meat pieces. Marinate the meat with grated papaya or any other meat tenderizer. Cover and keep aside.

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

3. Beat the yogurt with sugar and keep aside.

4. Dry roast cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves and aniseed, cool down and ground to powder. Keep aside.

5. Dissolve the saffron strands in warm milk, cover and keep aside.

6. In a heavy bottom pan heat oil. When the oil is hot add bay leaves, star anise, dry red chilies, black cardamom. Cook over medium heat till the spices release a nice aroma.

7. Add the sliced onion and fry to red-brown. Add the goat meat pieces and cook over high heat till the meat pieces take a light brown color.

8. Add the ginger-garlic-green chili paste. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 min. Add salt and mix well. Add beaten yogurt, reduce heat. Cover and cook for 10 min. Stir in between. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, clove, aniseed powder and ghee. Cook for 5-6 min. Add hot water to cover all the meat pieces, cover the pan and cook till the meat is fully done. Stir in between. Check seasoning, adjust accordingly.

9. Add the saffron soaked milk. Mix well. Switch off heat and let it stand for 15 min. Serve hot with rotis or nan bread.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rainbow cake...

"Rainbow, rainbow in the sky
Pretty color up so high
Oh, I wish that it would stay
Bringing color everyday..."

I still get excited and happy to see a rainbow after rains as I used to during my childhood. The colors of rainbow in a soap bubble or in the splashing water of a gigantic waterfall or up in the sky....rainbow is always magical.

So when I saw a multi-colored cake with swirling colors, I decided immediately to bake one for my little angel. Thanks to Indrani boudi and Subrata da for the idea and recipe.

The cake is very easy and simple. It is a vanilla flavored yellow cake, that most of us bake at home. I added some color to the batter and layered it to get this rainbow look. Instead of making the cake from scratch you can always use store bought cake mix.  This cake is a very good choice for a kids birthday party. You can also make cupcakes out of it.

I must confess, I do not usually like to use food colors and avoid as much as possible. As this colorful cake is generally made for kids, choose branded food color, preferably organic one.

Things needed to make Rainbow cake:

(Makes a 9 inch round cake, all the measurements are standard US cup and spoon measurements)
  • All purpose flour: 1 and 1/2 cup
  • Granulated sugar: 1 and 1/4 cup
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Unsalted Butter: 1 stick (110-115 gm)
  • Eggs: 4
  • Milk: 1/3 cup
  • Salt: 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla extract: 1 tsp
  • Food colors
  • Extra flour to dust
  • Extra butter to grease

Steps of making Rainbow cake:

1. Preheat oven at 375 F.

2. If you are making the cake from scratch then bring all the ingredients to room temperature. I used a hand mixer to make the cake batter. You can use a stand mixer also, whatever available to you. As I said you can use store bought cake mix, in that case follow the instructions on the box.

3. Take unsalted butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl and whisk on high speed till the mixture becomes creamy.

4. Crack the eggs in a small bowl. Add one at a time to the butter-sugar mixture and mix well. Add milk and mix well.

5. Add pure vanilla extract. Try to use vanilla extract, not essence. Mix well.

6. Take flour, baking powder and salt and sieve it into the sugar-butter-egg mixture. Add gradually and fold with a spatula. To fold means to add the flour gradually(not all the flour at a time), and gently mixing it with other ingredients with a spatula or large ladle in a horizontal sweeping motion.

7. When all the flour is completely incorporated with other ingredients, divide the batter into different bowls, depending on the number of colors you are going to add. A bowl for each color.

8. I used 4 colors, red, yellow, green and blue. Mix well and make sure to use separate spoon for each color.

9. Take a 9 inch cake pan grease well with butter. I prefer butter for greasing the can pan, that gives the best result. After greasing the pan, dust the pan with flour. It should be well dusted, or the cake will stuck to the pan.

10. Pour one colored batter at a time to the greased and dusted pan. I started with blue, then green, next yellow and red at the end. Do as you like.

11. Put the cake pan in the preheated oven(middle rack). Bake for 30 min. Insert a toothpick at the center to check.

12. Take out the cake from oven, carefully flip it out of the pan and let it cool down on a cooling rack. After it cools down completely, you can do icing of your choice.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sukto...a must have bitterness..

'Sukto' is a specialty of Bengali cuisine. It is a mildly bitter curry with loads of vegetables in it. Presence of bitter gourd brings the bitterness to the dish.

A full course Bengali platter  usually starts with something bitter, and Sukto is the most common of them. For us Bengalis, the lunch on any special occasion is incomplete without 'Sukto', be it a marriage ceremony or a rice ceremony or a birthday party.

Sukto has loads of vegetables in it. You can add vegetables of your choice. But there are some vegetables that must go in Sukto, like eggplant, raw banana, radish, drum sticks. And, of course one can not make Sukto without bitter gourd which imparts the bitter taste to the dish. Then there is another ingredient Sine qua non for Sukto is Bori or lentil nuggets. You can  also add any vegetables like ridged gourd(jhinge), taro roots(kochumukhi), long beans(borboti) etc.

Things needed to make Sukto:


  • Bitter gourd: 1
  • Egg plant: half
  • Radish: half
  • Raw banana/plantain: 1
  • Green papaya: 1/4
  • Drumsticks: 4-5
  • Sweet potato: 1
  • Potato: 1
  • Taro root/kochumukhi: 2-3
  • Flat beans/sheem: 6-7


  • Paach foron/Bengali five spice(roasted and ground): 2 tsp
  • Black mustard(paste): 1 tsp
  • Ginger (paste): 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds(paste): 1 tsp
  • Poppy seed (paste): 1 tbsp
  • Bay leaves: 2-3


  • Bori/lentil nuggets: 10-12
  • Milk: 1/2 cup
  • Ghee/clarified butter: 1-2 tsp
  • Oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste

Steps of making Sukto:

1. Peel the vegetables, except egg plant and cut all the vegetables lengthwise. Smear salt to the egg plant pieces and keep aside. Keep the raw banana dipped in water, or they will turn black.

2. Roast panch foron in a tawa, cool down and ground to powder. Keep aside. Panch foron is a mix of five spices, fenugreek(methi), black seed(kalo jire), fennel(mouri), black mustard(kalo sorse), celery seed(randhuni).

3. Heat oil(3-4 tbsp) a large pan or kadai. When the oil is hot, reduce heat and fry the bori/lentil nuggets till evenly brown. Take out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

4. In the same oil fry all the vegetables one by one, starting with potatoes. Fry over high heat, till the surface take brown color. Fry each vegetables separately. Fry the bitter gourd at the end, and make sure they are fully cooked. Keep the fried bitter gourd and fried egg plant separately.

5. In the same oil add bay leaves, cook for 1 min. Add ginger paste and fennel paste and cook for 2 min over medium heat. Add all the fried vegetables and salt, mix well. Add water and let boil. Do not add too much of water, the gravy would of thicker consistency  As the water boils, reduce heat and cover the pan. Cook till the vegetables are done. As potatoes take lesser time to cook, you can add it later.

6. Add fried bori/lentil nuggets. Add mustard paste and poppy seed paste, mix well. Cook covered for 5 min over medium heat. Add the fried bitter gourd and egg plant, add milk and cook for another 2-3 min. But do not boil it for long with the bitter gourd in it, or else it will turn too bitter. Add sugar to adjust the bitterness. Add ghee/clarified butter. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly.

7. Sprinkle the roasted and ground panch foron powder. Serve hot with steamed rice. It is to be eaten at the beginning of a course and served during lunch or a day meal.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rosbora...The Sankranti celebration continues..

Rosbora is another delicious special sweet made during Poush Parbon. The name tells it, 'Ros' means syrup and 'Bora' means dumplings or nuggets. These are urad dal dumplings soaked in date palm jaggery syrup.

Things needed to make Rosbora:

  • Urad dal: 1 cup
  • Fennel seeds(coarsely ground): 1 tsp
  • Salt a pinch
  • Water: 3 cups
  • Sugar: 2 cups
  • Date palm jaggery: 3/4 cup
  • Oil to deep fry

Steps of making Rosbora:

1. Soak urad dal for 8 hrs or overnight. Wash well, till water runs clear. Make a paste of the urad dal. While making the paste, use water as little as possible.

2. Take the paste in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and the coarsely ground fennel seeds. Now beat the dal very well. If you do not beat it well the dumplings will be hard from inside and the Rosbora will not soak syrup and will not taste good. So BEAT THE PASTE VERY WELL. To know whether you have beaten it to perfection, take a bowl full of water and take a very small amount of the dal paste and drop in the water. If the paste floats then you need not to beat any further, but if it sinks down then you need to beat more.

3. Take a deep pan or kadai, heat enough oil(any vegetable oil) to deep fry. When the oil is hot reduce the heat to low. Add a spoonful of dal paste and add to the oil. Fry 6-8 dumplings at a time, depending on the size of the pan or kadai. Fry over a low-medium flame for 4-5 min. You do not need to fry it till brown like pakoras.

4. Using a slotted spoon take out the fried dumplings and keep them on a paper napkin lined plate.

5. As the dumplings are being fried, in a pan boil water(3 cups) and sugar(2 cups). As the sugar dissolves completely add the date palm jaggery. Keep stirring to mix well. Keep the syrup warm. Add the fried dal dumplings to the hot syrup. The bora/dumplings would tend to float, with a help of a ladle or spoon dip the boras in the syrup. In case you do not get date palm jaggery, increase the amount of sugar, as per your taste.

6. Serve warm.

Click here for Patisapta recipe.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Poush Sankrantir Pithe Puli Payes...

Makar Sankranti is one of the major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. Rice being a staple food for majority of us Indians, the rice harvesting season is very important, and  is a time for celebration. In India, this festival has many names like Makar Shankranti, Bihu, Maghi, Pongal etc depending on the region where it is celebrated.

In West Bengal, Sankranti, also known as Poush Sankranti named after the Bengali month 'Poush' in which it falls, is celebrated as a harvest festival Poush Parbon( on 14 January on the English calendar). Poush sankranti is special as during this time every Bengali household would prepare special sweets called 'Pithemade from rice and date palm jaggery(khejur gur). 

There are various types of Pithe, some are steamed and some are fried. Pithe,can be both sweet or savory. And some need special earthenware to prepare them. The major ingredients are always rice flour, coconut, milk, date palm jaggery. 

I have grown up seeing my mother and aunts preparing for this auspicious day. It used to start with cleaning  and drying the rice and sending the rice to the grinder to make the rice flour. My father used  to buy the best possible date palm jaggery from the market. I still recall  the aroma of those earthen pot filled with liquid jaggery.

Jaggery in earthen pot
Though I am quite far away from Kolkata, I wanted to celebrate Poush Sankranti in my own away and made   Gurer payesh, Rosbora and Patisapta this year.

Patisapta is very popular and loved by all. Patisapta has a crepe like covering stuffed with a sweet stuffing of coconut, jaggery and solidified milk.

Thinks needed to make Patisapta:

For the crepe:

  • Milk: 2 cups
  • Semolina/Suji: 3/4 cup
  • All purpose flour: 1 cup
  • Rice flour: 1/4 cup
  • Sugar/Date palm jaggery: 2-3 tbsp

For the stuffing:

  • Mawa/solidified milk: 1 cup
  • Coconut(grated): 3/4 cup
  • Date palm jaggery/sugar: 1/2 cup-3/4 cup
  • Milk: 4-5 tbsp

Other ingredients:

  • Ghee: To fry
  • Dry fruits: To garnish

Steps of making Patisapta:

1. Mix all the ingredients for the crepe and whisk well to mix the flour properly. Cover and keep aside. I generally eye ball the ingredients, here I tried my best to give a measurement, the batter would be like a dosa-batter. Use lukewarm milk to make the batter for better result. I can share a tip from my mother, if the batter tend to stick to the pan while cooking, add more flour to the batter.

2. For the stuffing, take a pan and add grated mawa and coconut and cook over low-medium heat. Add milk gradually. As the mawa melts add date palm jaggery. The amount of jaggery depends on how sweet you want the stuffing to be. If you do not get date palm jaggery, then use sugar. Cook till all the ingredients are well blended and becomes almost dry. But it should not be very dry. If you take some of the stuffing you will be able to make balls but it will be sticky. Keep the stuffing warm.

3. Take a flat pan (better a non stick pan), brush the pan with ghee.I remember my mother used to use the head of an eggplant to spread the ghee on the cast iron tawa, while making the crepes for patisapta. Keep the pan over low medium heat and put ladle full of batter on the pan. Rotate the pan to spread the batter. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 min. Take a teaspoon of ghee and put around the crepe. The edges will start to come off the pan. Put some stuffing on one side of the crepe and start roll the crepe. Brush ghee on the crepe and fry. Some like the patisapta to be white, in that case do not fry too much and keep the heat to low while cooking. But I love the brown color so I cook till it turns nice brown.

4. You can make some kheer/reduced milk and serve the parisapta with the kheer. To make kheer, take evaporated milk in a non stick pan and keep cooking over medium flame. Keep stirring till desired thickness. Add sugar as per taste. Arrange the patisapta on the serving plate, topped with kheer and dry fruits.

Click here for Rosbora recipe.
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