Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sweet 'n sour chicken..

Kid and food, are two opposite words in many households. Many parents (mostly moms) face the biggest food challenge when it comes to cook something for their little one. Being a mother I can understand how it feels when your little one refuses to eat. Whatever little experience I have gathered over the last 6 years tells me that each kid is different from the other. You can never follow a single formula to treat or manage them.

I can point out few things that might help parents who face this frustrating problem. First thing first, make sure there is a routine in the house, a study time, playtime and eating time. The routine not only helps everything go smooth, it also helps the parents to  have some time for themselves too. Second, I would say do not force the kids to eat. Don't turn eating  into some repelling session for them. There must be some reason why he/she does not want to eat. Find out the reason/s. A colorful kid-friendly food will definitely attract the kid. Try to make the food interesting. Do not make something separate for the kid. Serve the same food that you are having. If it is spicy then keep the spice level low so the kids can have that. Kids learn from us, make sure to have a family lunch or dinner. A physically active kid will always feel hungry, so getting these little ones to spend their unending supply of energy by involving them in physical activities also helps. 

I always try to make something interesting for my little one. When I find her enjoying something while eating in a restaurant, I try to replicate that at home. This time it was Sweet 'n Sour Chicken, the  most common kid's menu in Chinese restaurants. It is a quick and easy meal, and the children love the tangy taste with a slight dash of spiciness. I added little dry red chili to add a spicy zing, but you can avoid that. I used chicken breast to make this dish, to get a restaurant like softness I banged the chicken pieces with a heavy knife to tenderize it.

This sweet and sour chicken can be served with steamed rice, I served it with a spinach and corn rice, another healthy option for kids. Recipe for Spinach corn rice is here.

Things needed to make Sweet 'n Sour Chicken:

  • Chicken breast(boneless and skinless): 425 gm/1 lb
  • Ginger (julienne): 1/2 tbsp
  • Red, yellow, orange bell peppers (cut into triangles): 1/2 cup
  • Pineapple (canned): 1/2 cup
  • Egg white from 1 egg
  • Corn starch: 1 tbsp
  • Salt: 1/4 tsp
  • Oil to cook
  • Dry red chili : 2 (optioanl)
  • Spring onion (only the green part): to garnish
  • Sesame seeds: to garnish

For the sauce:

  • Vinegar: 1/4 cup
  • Pineapple juice (from the canned pineapple): 1/4 cup
  • Brown sugar: 2 tbsp
  • Tomato ketchup: 1/4 cup
  • Soy sauce: 1/4 tsp

Steps of making Sweet 'n Sour Chicken:

1. Clean and wash the chicken breast, pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut the chicken breast into bite size cubes. With a mallet or back of a heavy knife bang the chicken pieces, this will help to break down the fibrous meat and the end result will be soft.

2. Mix egg white, salt, cornstarch in a bowl and coat the chicken pieces in that mixture. Keep it for 10 min.

3. Mix all the ingredients for sauce, keep aside. I did not add any extra salt to the sauce, as ketchup and soy sauce both have a high amount of salt in them.

4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil( I used canola oil, use peanut oil for best result) in a pan. When the oil is hot add the chicken pieces. Do not over crowd the pan. The chicken pieces should be in a single layer, if needed fry the chicken in batches. Cook over high heat for 1-2 min, turn and cook the other side for 1-2 min. Take out the chicken with a slotted spoon.

5. Add another tablespoon of oil in the pan, add the julienned ginger, cook for 20-30 sec. Add bell peppers, pineapple chunks, cook for few minutes. Add sauce, let the sauce boil. As the sauce boils add fried chicken, cook over medium heat for 4-5 min. Add broken dry red chilies(you can avoid this part) and give a good toss. Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle chopped spring onion(only green part) and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

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Spinach and Corn rice..

I frequently make a corn-coriander rice, following Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe. But today while making the same I found no fresh coriander in my refrigerator. Instead I had a bunch of fresh spinach, so just modified the dish to spinach-corn rice, and to my delight my daughter loved that. It is an easy and healthy rice, that can be served with chicken, egg or even just as it is. I served it with the sweet and sour chicken.

Things needed to make Spinach-corn rice:

  • Cooked rice: 1 cup
  • Chopped spinach: 1/2 cup
  • Frozen corn: 1/4 cup
  • Garlic(sliced): 1/2 tbsp
  • EVOO: 1 tbsp
  • Lime juice: 2 tsp
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps of making Spinach-corn rice:

1. Wash spinach well, drain water and chop. Thaw the frozen corn kernels.

2. In a pan heat EVOO, add sliced garlic, cook for 1 min. Add spinach, cook till it wilts. Add corn kernels, mix well. Add cooked rice, salt and black pepper powder, mix well. Switch off heat, sprinkle lime juice, mix and serve hot.

Note: chopped green chilies can be added if you are making this rice for adults.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gosht Beliram..

Holi, the festival of colors is the time to welcome spring in India. It may be named different in different parts of India, but the enthusiasm, enjoyment and fun is ubiquitous.

As a child I have so many wonderful memories of holi or দোল(dol) as we call it in Bengali. For us, holi was equivalent to a day of being drenched in color. We were allowed to wear one of our old dress, yeah quite contrary to those filmy white dress parade, so there's no need to wash that horribly colored unrecognizable thing at the end of it. And we too used to become unrecognizable, with red on one cheek and green on the other, golden hair and blue-black hands. It was not only goody goody powdered color thing, we used play an extensive 3-4 hrs of water drenched 'get the parents panic attack' type of holi. I had few pics of those time, but funny enough sometimes me too get confused who is who on those all bluish black faced (with only white glittering teeth) group photos.

How can be an Indian festival be complete without foods? The festival of holi has it's own special ones. The most important and a must have is a drink, the thandai. A fragrant milkshake with dry fruits, melon seeds, saffron, rose petals etc and etc. But the most important ingredient in the thandai is freshly ground hemp. And of course it has its own claim when drunk in abundant.

Other than thandai, sweets are very common. We used to begin our day with hot cup of tea and fritters(onion pakora/ alur chop etc). But for lunch goat meat and rice was must in our house. My mother used to make a delicious mutton curry. So to keep up with all those memories I made a meat dish for this year holi.

It is called Gosht Beliram, named after the famous historical chef Beliram of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's kitchen. Thanks to Mr. Atul Sikand and Moushumi for this wonderful recipe. I went for  the richer version, marinating the meat with fried brown onion paste. If you like a lighter version go through my friend Moushumi's blog Rainbow and cloudbusters, I'm sure you will enjoy both the recipe and her engaging write up.

Things needed to make Gosht Beliram:

  • Goat meat (large chunks): 1 kg/ 2 lb 
  • Yogurt: 500 gm/ 1 lb
  • Onion(very thinly sliced): 1 cup
  • Garlic(minced): 3-4 tbsp
  • Ginger(grated): 2-3 tbsp
  • Deghi Mirch powder: 1 tbsp
  • Dry red chili powder/Kashmiri red chili powder: 1/2 tbsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tbsp
  • Coriander powder: 1/2 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Crushed coriander seeds: 1 tsp
  • Crushed black peppercorns: 1 tsp
  • Bay leaves: 3-4
  • Green chilies: 4-5 (optional)
  • Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil/Ghee/clarified butter to cook

Steps of making Gosht Beliram:

1. Dry roast coriander seeds and black peppercorn, roughly coarse both the seeds and keep aside.

2. Fry the thinly sliced onion to red brown color, drain out from oil and keep on a paper towel. Let it cool down and make a smooth paste.

3. Clean and wash the mutton pieces, pat dry. In a bowl (preferably a large glass bowl with cover), add yogurt, fried onion paste, garlic, ginger, deghi mirch powder, dry red chili powder or kashmiri red chili powder( whichever you are using), turmeric powder(if using), cumin powder, coriander powder, salt, mix all these ingredients well. Add the meat pieces in this mixture and coat all pieces with the mixture well. Cover and keep in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Take out the marinated meat from the refrigerator 1 hr before cooking. Heat mustard oil in a heavy bottom pan. When the oil is hot add bay leaves and crushed coriander seeds and peppercorns. Add the marinated meat, cook till the meat is done. Keep stirring in between. No water is added in this dish. But if you find the meat is too dry or scorching at the bottom then add little hot water. When the meat is fully cooked add ghee and garam masala powder, mix well. Serve hot with rotis.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Methi chicken..chicken with fresh fenugreek leaves

Whenever I need to make a quick dish, most of the time I find myself choosing to make something with chicken. Preparing a chicken dish for me is not only a quick and easy option, and a chicken dish has the added advantage of being paired with both bread and rice. Today the chicken dish I cooked is very common to Indian households, especially during winter, when fresh methi saak or fenugreek leaves are available. Yes, you are right it is Methi chicken, chicken curry flavored with fresh fenugreek leaves.

Methi or fenugreek has an earthy aroma that blends very well with chicken. I have made  Kasuri methi murg i.e. chicken with dried fenugreek leaves before. But using fresh fenugreek leaves brought out a whole different flavor and aroma to the dish. Since fenugreek has a bitter taste, I was initially a bit hesitant to use the fresh leaves while making the chicken curry. But my culinary expert friends Pinki and Smriti confirmed that there will be no bitterness if only leaves are used. And a go ahead from them is all I needed to firm up my mind. Thanks to both of them it was delicious.

Keep two things in mind while using fresh fenugreek leaves/methi saak, use the freshest possible and use only the leaves. Adding the stems will turn the dish bitter.

Things needed to make Methi Chicken:

(adapted from

  • Chicken with bone: 700 gm
  • Fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves: a bunch
  • Fenugreek seeds: 1 tsp
  • Dry red chili: 4-5
  • Onion (thinly sliced): 1.5 cup
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Tomato: 1 small
  • Yogurt: 3/4 cup
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Green chilies (chopped): 3-4 (optional)
  • Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Oil to cook

Steps of making Methi Chicken:

1. Separate the fenugreek leaves from the stems. Do not add the stems, it will make the dish bitter. Wash the leaves well and keep it on a colander to drain out the water.

2. Wash and clean the chicken, keep aside. In a large heavy bottom pan, add oil. When the oil is hot add the fenugreek seeds(methi dana), cook till the seeds start to change the color. Reduce heat and carefully take out the seeds and discard. You can keep the seeds, but if you bite one of them while eating that will be quite a bitter experience, and I mean it literally. So better discard the seeds after infusing the flavor into the oil.

3. Add dry red chilies in the oil, cook for few seconds, add sliced onions, cook till nicely brown. Add garlic paste and ginger paste, mix well and cook for 2-3 min over medium heat. Add chopped tomato. Sprinkle salt and cook till tomatoes are done.

4. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, kashmiri red chili powder, mix well. Cover and cook for 3-4 min.

5. Add yogurt, beat the yogurt with little water and sugar before adding. Cook over low heat for 5 min, add chicken, salt and fenugreek leaves. Add chopped green chilies, if using. Cover and cook over low-medium heat till the chicken is done. Keep stirring in between. The chicken will release enough water to cook, but if needed add hot water. This dish will have a thick gravy, so do not add much water. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly. Sprinkle garam masala powder, let rest for 10 min, serve hot with pulao or roti.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Vindaloo...vindalho or vindallo, is an extremely popular dish from Goa, India. The origin of name 'vindaloo' is traced to the Portuguese word 'Vinha de Alhos' and it itself points to the two main ingredients of the dish, Vinho meaning wine and Alhos meaning garlic. The Portuguese traders introduced this dish to the people of Western coast of India. People say, along with this dish the Portuguese also introduced chili pepper to India which they picked up from Mexico. Originally, in vindaloo the meat was marinated or better to say pickled with wine  or wine vinegar and garlic to preserve it for the long voyages these Portuguese traders undertook. Pork was the meat for vindaloo and pork with lots of fat was usually chosen for vindaloo. The marinated meat was then cooked till  it was tender and had a thick gravy. 

Vindaloo is characterized by its pungent flavor and tangy taste and it is hot. Though with time the dish has evolved to the modern day vindaloo. The traditional wine has been replaced and the pork fat has been substituted by ghee or clarified butter. Now-a-days not only pork, but goat meat, lamb, beef , chicken or prawns are also used to make vindaloo. Some also add potatoes as filler in vindaloo. Many get confused with the name and think potatoes are must in vindaloo (as the word aloo is potato in Hindi), but they are not.

I have come across many different recipes of vindaloo and they vary widely. Fortunately, I got a chance to learn it from my friend Vanessa who is from Goa. She shared the vindaloo recipe the way she prepares it at home. Thanks a lot Vanessa.

Things needed to make Vindaloo:

  • Meat (goat/lamb/beef/pork): 1 kg/ 2 lb
  • Apple cider vinegar: 1/4 cup
  • White wine: 1/4 cup
  • Coriander seeds: 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
  • Dry kashmiri red chilies: 10-12
  • Green cardamom: 4-5
  • Cloves: 7-8
  • Cinnamon: 3-4 (1 inch sticks)
  • Peppercorn: 1 tsp
  • Bay leaves: 3-4
  • Ginger: 2 inch
  • Garlic: 10-12 cloves
  • Onion (very thinly sliced): 1 cup
  • Tamarind pulp/paste: 1-2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar: 1-2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook

Steps of making Vindaloo:

1. Clean and wash the meat, pat dry. Soak dry kashmiri red chilies in vinegar. Dry roast cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cool down. Make a paste of ginger, garlic, roasted spices and kashmiri red chilies with vinegar. Marinate the meat pieces with this paste, wine, turmeric powder and salt for at least 24 hrs, in the refrigerator.

2. Take out the marinated meat from the refrigerator one hour before cooking. Heat mustard oil (4-6 tbsp) in a heavy bottom pan. When the oil is hot add whole peppercorns and bay leaves, add 1 tbsp of sugar, add onions, cook till the onions are evenly brown.

3. Add the marinated meat, cook on high heat for 5-6 min, keep stirring. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook till the meat is done. Stir in between, make sure there is enough liquid so that the meat does not burn, if needed add little hot water. Add tamarind paste or pulp and sugar(1 tbsp), mix well. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly. If you want to add potatoes as filler in this dish, peel potatoes  cut them into quarters and fry them separately and add when the meat is almost done. Serve with steamed rice.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Braided bread..

Yes, the bread addiction continues. I feel once you are in this bread making phase, it's difficult to pull yourself out of it. Presently I'm a conscious bread baking addict. I know it because I'm spending most of the time reading about the science behind bread making, all the fictions and mystery books are all swept aside and that's something odd.  It is even odd that rather than the jewelry or dress section, I find myself  walking  around  the bake ware section in stores, I'm sure it pleases the man in the house though. But the best part of this addiction is getting praise from your near and dear ones.

Once you are addicted what else you can do, but bake few more breads. This time it was a braided bread . Braided bread or Challah is a traditional Jewish bread eaten on Sabbath or holidays. I found a simple and easy to follow recipe from I modified a little bit, I used butter and milk to make the loaf richer. The steps are very simple and easy, though baking bread at home does not sounds easy, but believe me it is as easier than making a perfect chicken curry.

Things needed to make braided bread:

(Recipe adapted from

  • Yeast(active dry yeast): 1 tbsp
  • Warm water: 1/4 cup
  • Sugar: 1 tsp

For the dough:
  • Bread flour: 3-3.5 cups
  • Warm milk: 1 cup
  • Sugar: 4 tbsp
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Egg: 1
  • Butter(melted): 2 tbsp
  • Oil to grease
  • Extra flour to dust
  • Sesame seeds

For the egg wash:
  • Egg: 1
  • Water: 1 tbsp

Steps of making braided bread:

1. In a deep bowl take warm water, yeast and sugar (1 tsp), mix well and cover, wait for 10 min till the yeast proofs.

2. Add warm milk, egg (beaten), sugar, salt, butter to the proofed yeast, gently mix. Gradually add flour (1 cup at a time) and keep mixing. If you are using a stand mixer, then use the hook attachment. I did use a spatula, as I was working with my hand. Do not add all the flour at a time.

3. Lightly flour the working surface, drop the dough, and knead. Stretch it away from you, fold, rotate 90 degree and repeat, till the dough becomes pliable (about 10-12 min). Keep dusting the work surface with flour. 

4. Grease a large bowl, keep the dough in the bowl, cover and let it rise for 1.5-2 hrs, until double in size.

5. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each piece into 18 inch long ropes. Lay the ropes on floured working surface and pinch one end together and braid, pinch the other end. Place the dough on a greased baking tray. Cover the dough with hand towel. Let the dough rise again for 30 min.

6. Pre-heat oven to 400F/200C. After 30 min, brush the dough with egg wash, sprinkle sesame seeds. I used white sesame seeds, you can use black poppy seeds or black sesame, anything of your choice.

7. Put the dough in the oven on the middle rack and back for 25-30 min. 

8. Take out and let it cool down on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy with butter and jam. This is also good for french toast.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chitol macher muthiya..

Did you ever had an online crash course on cutting and dressing the fish, and that too when you are ready with the fish on the chopping board? I did that last Sunday, with the chitol mach (giant feather back fish) waiting on the chopping board and was on an chat with my friend Bandana di. Thanks a lot Bandana di for all the help.

Last time I made Chitol mach-er muthiya was 8 yrs ago in Kolkata, where the fish sellers readily cut the fish  as per your need and direction. When I saw fresh chitol mach (giant feather back fish) in our local Asian grocery store in Austin, so I jumped (not literally though) and without even giving a thought about the cutting and pre-cooking preparations involved in this dish. I knew Bandana di would be there to help me out.
Chitol mach (scientific name Chitala chitala) or the giant feather back fish is prepared in a very unique way in the Bengali households. The belly of chitol fish is used for making  the usual fish curries. The back/dorsal part is used to make fish balls or dumplings and the resulting curry called  the Chitol maacher Muthiya is absolutely delicious. This dumpling making process involves several steps and as traditionally the Chitol fish meat balls are shaped with the palm of the hand by pressing the fist, the preparation is called muthiya (fist). The back/dorsal part of the fish is full of thin fish bones, the trick is to scrape out the fish meat without those bones. I have tried to explain the whole process exactly the way I  did. After making the dumplings or fish balls I made a curry (kaliya) with them following my mom's recipe. 

Things needed to make Chitol macher muthiya:

  • Chitol mach(giant feather back fish):
  • Onion (grated): 2 tbsp
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Tomato(chopped): 1
  • Boiled potato(mashed): 1/4 cup
  • Potato: 1 large
  • Green chili paste: 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1-2 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon: 2 sticks
  • Green cardamom: 3-4
  • Cloves: 3-4
  • Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Bay leaves: 2-3
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Ghee/Clarified butter: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp

Steps of making Chitol macher muthiya:

1. Take the back/dorsal part of the fish. Slice through both sides of the fish spine so as to isolate the spine,   Lay the fish flat, scrape the fish meat out with a spoon. Scrape in the same direction as the bones are pointing to otherwise you will end up with lot of fish bones in the scrapings. I have explained the process of scraping the fish through several pictures below.

Take only the back/dorsal part

Slice both side of the fish spine

Scrape with a spoon

Move spoon in the direction of the bones are pointing to
2. After the scraping is done, recheck the fish meat whether any fish bone is left in that or not. If any, discard them.

3. Add boiled mashed potato, grated onion(1 tsp), garlic paste(1/4 tsp), ginger paste(1/4 tsp), salt, turmeric powder(a pinch), red chili powder, green chili paste(optional).

4. Mix them well.

5. Rub some oil on both the palms, take a fistful of the mixture and make fish balls.

6. Boil water in deep pan. As the water rolls to boil add the fish balls.

7. Let the fish balls cook for 4-5 mins, when the fish balls are done they will start floating on the water. Take out and let it cool down before handling. Cut the dumplings into desired shape. I cut each diagonally into two pieces 

8. Take a deep pan, heat mustard oil. Mustard oil is must for this dish. But if you do not get mustard oil, use other vegetable oil, but the flavor will not be the same. When the oil is hot, fry the fish dumplings to red-brown color. Take out from oil and keep aside.

9. In the same oil, fry the peeled and quartered potato pieces, till golden brown. Take out and keep aside.

10. In the same oil(if needed add more), add bay leaves, whole spices and cook till the spices release a nice aroma. Add grated onion along with a teaspoon of sugar, cook over medium heat till the onions takes a red color. Add garlic paste and ginger paste, mix well and cook for 2-3 min. Add chopped tomatoes, sprinkle salt, cover and cook till tomatoes are done. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, red chili powder, kashmiri red chili powder, mix well and cook till oil separates. Add hot water and let it boil. As the water boils add fried potatoes and salt. Cover and cook for 4-5 min. Add the fried fish dumplings, cover and cook till potatoes are done. Add ghee/clarified butter and garam masala powder.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bacon wrapped Enoki mushrooms

Enoki or Enokitake(as said in Japan) is a long, white, thin mushroom. Very commonly used in Japanese soups and popular for it's subtle mild fruity flavor. Enokis are very healthy as they are full of antioxidants.

Last weekend I found a fresh bunch of Enoki in our local Asian  grocery store. I bought a bunch and added them to noodles, they were really good. I still had some left, was wondering what to make with them. Thanks to , I got this wonderful idea of bacon wrapped enokis. It can be an excellent choice as a starter for a party. The best thing is, you can  keep them prepared in advance, only need to grill or bake before serving. I served it along a soy-ginger dip. Those who do not eat bacon, try with turkey bacon(thanks to Anuradha for this idea) or thin strips of chicken. And if you do not get enokis, you can try this with asparagus also.

Things needed to make bacon wrapped enokis:

  • Bacon: 6
  • Enoki: a bunch
  • Carrot: 1
  • Spring onion: a bunch
  • Toothpicks to secure the roll

For the dip:

  • Dark soy sauce: 1/2 cup
  • Brown sugar: 1 tsp
  • Ginger(grated): 1/2 tsp
  • Chinese rice wine/sherry: 1 tbsp
  • Sesame oil: 1/4 tsp

Steps of making bacon wrapped enokis:

1. Trim the enokis and wash well. Drain water and pat dry with kitchen towel.

2. Peel carrot and cut into thin long strips. Cut the spring onion into long strips.

3. Cut bacon into half. Put a layer of bacon, then arrange the vegetables on one side. Carefully roll them and secure with toothpick. You can prepare till this and keep the wraps in a closed container in the refrigerator. Take out an hour before grilling or baking.

4. Pre-heat oven to 350F/175C. Cover a large baking tray with aluminium foil and cook the wraps for 12-15 min or till the bacon takes a nice color. You can cook them on stove top using a pan. Spray a little oil on the pan, heat pan and arrange the wraps and cook(keep turning) till the bacon takes a nice color.

5. Serve hot with the soy dip. For the dip mix all the ingredients together and let sit for 20 min. If you like you can brush the dip on the wrap before putting them into the oven.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Palang saaker ghonto and the bori story..

So where should I start, the bori (sun dried lentil nuggets) or the ghonto...sometimes it's so confusing. Specially when you are late on posting a recipe. Let's start with the Bori

Bori is an essential part of Bengali cuisine. If you need a definition then I will say Bori is sun dried lentil (paste) nuggets. Being part a joint family, I have grown up seeing the whole process of making Bori's so many times. My aunt (we call her Jhethima) used to make elaborate preparation for making Bori. The basic ingredient is lentils, you can use either split black gram (urad dal) or split red lentil (masur dal) or split yellow lentil (motor dal). My aunt used to clean all the lentils separately, then soak them overnight and make a paste using the traditional flat stone mortar pestle (sil-nora). And the most important part was whipping the lentil paste. The more you whip it, better will be the end result. Deftly using her fingertips, she would put small amount of lentil paste on clean white piece of cloth supported by a clean large bamboo plate (kulo) or stainless steel plate. The nuggets are shaped like cone, tapered at the top, just like the Hersey's kisses. I remember my aunt used sit through whole day with sun on her head during October- November to make the whole years bori supply, and that too not only for our family but so many relatives and friends. We used to joke why don't you start your own brand of bori. We used to play the scare-crow for our aunt, sitting on the terrace with other cousins and having good time and shooing the birds. And of course what can be a better excuse for not finishing up those boring homework from school. 

There are several kind of boris, large, small, with poppy seeds, with vegetable paste and so many more. My favorite was the large urad dal boris, specially for Sukto, jhol or ghonto and the small one with poppy seeds(bhaja bori) that to be served as fried along with rice and dal.

These are now sweet memories for me and my cousins.

Back in Kolkata it is so easy to get good quality bori, from a small grocer to the supermarket one can find them easily. But here I don't have that luck, so tried my hand on making bori. I could not rely on the little sun on my balcony, so did it in the oven. So here you go on how to make bori in the oven...

1. Soak urad dal/biulir dal/split black gram at least for 6 hrs.

2. Make a smooth paste of the soaked lentil, but make sure to use as little water as possible. The paste should not be runny. You should be able to make peaks with the paste with your finger.

3. Pre-heat oven to 200F/100C. Take a large baking sheet, cover it with aluminium foil. Spray a little oil on the foil. Put the tray inside the oven while the oven is heating up.

4.While the oven is heating up, whip the lentil paste with little salt and asafoetida/hing. Whip...whip...whip...your hand should pain, you might ask yourself 'why I'm doing this', but still whip.

5. Take out the hot tray carefully from the oven. Using your finger put lentil paste on the tray, trying to make  them look like bori. The shape is similar to Hersey's kiss. In the beginning they may need name tags to be recognized as bori, but it's just a little practice  and you are ready to launch your brand of bori.

6. Reduce the temperature to warm, the 'WM' option on your oven. Put the bori in the oven. Keep the first 30 min like that. What I generally do is, I switch off the oven. Then again after an hour I switch it on to warm. The logic is to keep the oven warm but again not too hot. Just trust your instinct on this.

7. It takes 2 days for the boris to be completely dry. Try to pull one gently, if it comes out automatically then the boris are done. Store them in an air tight container.

So where to use these boris? You can fry them till brown and can add to fish curry, vegetable curry, sukto or ghonto. I used them in ghonto this time. It was a spinach(palang saak) and vegetable mish mash. I followed my mother's recipe. I added whatever vegetables I found in my refrigerator.

Things needed to make palang saaker ghonto/ spinach veggie mish mash:

  • Spinach: a bunch
  • Potato(diced): 1/2 cup
  • Pumpkin(diced): 1/2 cup
  • Eggplant(diced): 1 cup
  • Radish(diced): 1/2 cup
  • Taro/kochu mukhi(diced): 1/2 cup
  • Flat beans/sheem(stringed): 10-12
  • Bori: 10-12
  • Bay leaves: 2
  • Cumin seeds: 1/4 tsp
  • Dry red chilies: 3-4
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp 
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Ghee/clarified butter: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Green chilies (optional): 3-4

Steps of making palang saaker ghonto/ spinach veggie mish mash:

1. Wash the spinach well, drain water, chop and keep in a colander.

2. Wash and cut all the vegetables. You need to peel the veggies, except the eggplant.

3. Heat oil( for best result use mustard oil) in a deep pan or kadhai, when the oil is hot reduce heat and fry the boris to red-brown. Take out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

4. Fry the eggplant pieces in the same oil, take out and keep aside.

5. Add more oil to the pan, when the oil is hot add bay leaves, dry red chilies and cumin seeds. As the spices release a nice aroma add the radish and taro and cook for 7-8 min, next add potatoes, and pumpkin. Add vegetables depending on their cooking time. Sprinkle salt, turmeric powder. Cover and cook till the vegetables are almost done. Add chopped spinach, mix well. As the spinach wilts add the boris. But not all, keep few for garnishing. Add fried eggplant pieces, mix well. Add salt, sugar, cumin powder, garam masala powder, cook uncover till done. Add ghee/clarified butter. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly. Add green chilies(if using). Transfer into the serving bowl. Crush the fried boris and sprinkle over the ghonto. Serve with steaming hot rice.

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