It's surprising how time flies, last Sunday I completed a year of blogging. 365 days, it seems like just yesterday, I decided to start my blog to share my love of food and cooking. I had been asked by so many friends to publish my own blog, but never took it seriously. Blogging happened just suddenly. It was not planned, like many other things in my life.
Growing up in a Bengali joint family, I have seen my mother and aunts cooking everyday food at home. From steaming hot cup of tea in the morning to Ruti (soft puffed flat bread) for dinner, all made at home. Eating out was considered to be unhealthy and waste of money. My mother had her strict instructions, no food from street stalls. Though we used to satisfy our taste buds with those unhealthy fuchka, jhalmuri and rolls etc & etc, that's a different story.
The transformation of raw ingredients to something finger-licking good is like magic, the magic of cooking that fascinated me always. The sound, the aroma, the taste are treasured food memories I grew up with.The spluttering sound of vegetables going into hot oil, the flat stone mortar pestle grinding spices or the pressure cooker announcing the Sunday special meat curry were the acoustic of my food memory. Where as the smell of frying fresh fish, or boiling Gobindobhog (an aromatic rice) rice were pleasure to the olfactory perception.
The regular food I grew up with was mostly Bengali, with few exceptions of Indo-Chinese food or Mughlai dishes. I remember as a kid the most surprising thing for me was my mother making 'luchi'. I never understood how a flat flour disk can change into such a perfect crispy delicious rounds. Luchi is one of the top ten reasons that I used to wander into my mom's kitchen and very strongly sent back to study table.
Other than the curiosity of what's going on the kitchen, I was a very fussy eater. I never enjoyed same old rice and curry, always in search for something different, something new. And that let me start quite young in the kitchen in comparison to my other cousins at home who hardly bothered to know what's happening inside the kitchen.
Collecting recipes from cookbooks and magazines became one of my favorite hobbies. Instead of watching TV serials I enjoyed cookery shows. Then came a time when I was allowed to enter the kitchen and cook something by myself. It started with some simple cake, flan, with my mother's guidance of course. Though every time I occupied the kitchen my mother complained how clumsy I was. But mom's are for that, aren't they..?
My father and brother, both were my constant support. My elder brother being the most critical critic I have come across in my life and my father being just the opposite. My father never found any fault in my cooking, even if I completely forgot to add salt in a curry.
There are so many cooking disasters, I look back and laugh at those, memories are sweet indeed.
The love of cooking become a daily activity after marriage. Moreover being a mother myself, I spent a considerable time in kitchen. It's indeed rewarding when your little one hugs you and says 'you are the best cook mom', and the man declares the food is far better than the restaurants.
To cook is a pleasure to me. To recreate the traditional dishes I have grown up eating as well as experimenting something very new gives me a satisfaction. I found cooking to be very creative, an art itself. To spread that love and joy of cooking I started blogging. Blogging taught me so many new things; the aesthetics of food presentation, to click a good food photo. And most importantly blogging has given me so many friends. Thanks to all you for being there, constantly supporting me and encouraging me.
So to celebrate the first anniversary I made a special sweet, Rajbhog. As the name says it is the food for kings, Raj means king and bhog means food. These large round cheese dumplings cooked in sugar syrup is a delicacy from Bengal. Homemade cottage cheese balls stuffed with pistachio and milk solids are cooked in sugar syrup flavored with saffron and rose water. The procedure is very similar to making Rosogolla.
Things needed to make Rajbhog:
(To make 12 Rajbhog)
For the cottage cheese dough:
- Milk: 1 gallon / 1.89 lt
- Lime juice: of a whole large lime
- Sugar: 1 tbsp
- Semolina/ Sooji: 1 tbsp
- Flour: 1 tbsp
- Saffron: a pinch soaked in 1 tsp milk
For the stuffing:
- Milk powder(unsweetened) or mawa: 1/4 cup
- Saffron: a pinch soaked in 1 tbsp
- Green cardamom powder: 1/4 tsp
- Pistachio (blanched and chopped): 1 tsp
For sugar syrup:
- Sugar: 2 cups
- Water: 5 cups (divided)
- Green cardamom: 6-7
- Saffron: few strands
- Rose water: 1-2 tbsp
Steps of making Rajbhog:
1. Boil milk in a heavy bottom pan, keep stirring so the milk does not scorch to the bottom. As the milk rolls to boil gradually add lime juice till the milk curdles. Line a colander with cheese cloth, strain the curdled milk. Tie up the cheese cloth containing the solid curdled milk, wash under cold running water. Hang the cheese cloth to drain excess water.
2. After no more water drops from the cheese cloth bag, transfer the cottage cheese to a flat tray or plate. Add sugar (1 tbsp), semolina, flour and saffron to the cottage cheese and mix very well.
3. Mix all the ingredients very well. Knead the dough with heel of your palm for 4-5 min, to make a smooth dough.
4. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Cover the dough with a wet kitchen towel.
5. Mix all the ingredients for the stuffing.
6. Divide the stuffing into 12 small balls.
7. Stuff the cheese balls with the stuffing.
8. Make smooth round balls. Cover the cheese balls with a wet kitchen towel. Boil sugar(2 cups) and water(4 cups) for the sugar syrup, in a large deep container. Keep the other extra cup of water warm. Add green cardamom, saffron to the syrup, let the syrup boil. As the syrup rolls to boil add the cheese balls carefully. Reduce heat, cover the container and cook the cheese balls. Keep as eye so the syrup does not spill. Cook the cheese balls for 40-45 min. In between add ladle full of warm water(the extra one cup) to keep the consistency of the syrup right. Make sure you are using a large enough container to accommodate all the cheese balls and as the cheese balls are cooked they will swell up to double their size.
9. After 40-45 min, switch off heat, remove pan from heat and let the Rajbhog cool down for at least 5-6 hrs. I prefer to serve them after 24 hrs, so they can soak the syrup well. Serve hot or cold.
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