Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pasta with lettuce in mustard sauce

On hot summer days when one craves for something light yet yummy for supper, what better option can there be other than pasta. Pasta can be cooked in continental, Chinese, or Indian style – the only thing we have to take care of is to know which combinations blend well with each other. I will write about one recipe I make, when not cooking soup for supper. So, today’s recipe is a pasta combination with lettuce/cabbage leaves/spinach in mustard sauce.

You will need: pasta, lettuce/cabbage leaves/spinach, mustard powder, fresh cream, lemon/white vinegar, white oil/olive oil, salt, and sugar.

How to prepare:
Boil one cup pasta with enough water and salt as per taste for 10 minutes or till soft. Drain excess water from the pasta, pour cold water, drain again, and keep pasta aside.

Wash and dry lettuce, quarter in stripes. If lettuce is not available, use tender leaves of cabbage or spinach. Keep aside.

In a bowl, mix two tspoons of mustard powder (I use Wakefield’s), two scoops of fresh cream (malai), the juice of one lemon (or white vinegar), one tbspoon white oil or olive oil, and salt and sugar as per taste. Whip the ingredients for some time till well mixed and frothy. This is the sauce.

Now, in another bowl combine pasta and the greens. Pour the sauce. Mix lightly with a wooden spoon.

Garnish with orange wedges or grapes.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Palak ki Kadhi

As I have said before, I believe in experimenting with cooking and do not follow strict measurements. But, I do follow one rule – that cooking needs a lot of patience and you get the best results when done on slow fire. This not only saves the stuff from burning and therefore preserving the nutritive value, but also helps to bring out the aroma in the spices.

Today’s recipe is Palak ki Kadhi. Kadhi is a popular dish of North India and has a pride of place in the delicacies served during the Holi festival along with hot raw-Jackfruit curry (katahal ki sabzi).

To make Kadhi-Palak, you will need the following ingredients:

Besan – 1 cup
Palak (spinach) – Washed, dried, and quartered
Fresh curd – Whipped with little milk into a smooth texture
Oil – I prefer mustard oil for preparing Kadhi, especially for deep frying
Garlic – Made into a paste or thinly sliced
Chilly powder - Optional
Hing – 1 pinch


Method of Preparation:

Take the besan in a bowl. Pour water carefully to make a thick batter. Add salt, chilly powder, and hing. Whip till the batter becomes light.

Now squeeze out water from the palak and add to the besan batter. If the batter becomes thin after adding palak then add some besan.

Heat mustard oil in a kadhai till piping hot. Keep a plate of dry besan ready. Take a lump from the besan-palak batter and shape into a small ball. Roll the besan-palak ball in dry besan to bind it securely.

Now, boil water with crushed jeera and salt in a pan on one burner and on the other, heat oil to fry the besan-palak balls. This is the Kadhi pakora. As the pakoras get fried, drop them into the boiling water. Keep in boiling water till the pakoras become soft and spongy. This should happen within 10-15 minutes, in some cases earlier. When all the pakoras are fried, add water to the bowl in which you prepared the batter and keep aside.

Lower the heat and in the same oil, fry the garlic paste. When aroma comes out, add one tspoon haldi powder and red chilly powder. Fry a little.

Now, add the besan water from the batter-bowl. Add salt as per taste. When boiling point is reached, add the pakoras gently. Let it simmer for five minutes.
Now, add the whipped curd, simmer for two minutes and lower from heat. Serve with boiled rice.

Kadhi should not be too watery or too thick. You can adjust the consistency by adding water diluted with besan. Happy cooking! Do let me know the results. Remember that practice leads to perfection.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Soya Granules with Green Peas and Potatoes

Today I present a very simple, quick, tasty, and nutritious soya-based recipe that you can have with chapattis.

You will need: Soya granules, potato, onion, tomato, green peas, garlic, jeera, tejpatta, haldi, kashmiri mirch powder, dhania powder, garam masala powder, and dhania patta.

How you can prepare:
- Soak the soya granules in warm water for five minutes. Then squeeze. Keep aside.

- Cut potatoes, onions, and tomatoes in small cubes. Shell peas. Slice garlic. Keep aside.

- Heat oil or ghee in a kadhai. Add jeera and tejpatta. Now, add onion and garlic. Sauté.
- Add haldi, kashmiri mirch powder for coloring, and dhania powder. Add potato cubes and fry a little.
- Add the soya granules and fry a little.
- Now, add the green peas, salt, and tomato cubes. Lower heat and cover.
- Open lid after five minutes, check whether the potato and peas are tender. Then, add garam masala powder and mix well. Garnish with dhania patta and serve with chapattis.kl

You would have noted that I have not mentioned measures for the ingredients. That is because it all depends on how much of what you’d like to see in your recipe. Cooking is a lot about improvisation and I believe that cooking with this spirit can make it a joy and less of a daily chore. So, I leave it to you to improvise and customize the ingredients according to your liking, taste buds, or mood. However, specific queries are always welcome :-)


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peethe II – Rangaloo Pulee/Patisapta/Rosh Pulee

While winter chill still lingers and the Bengali markets still sell ingredients for Peethes – rice powder, sweet potatoes, patalee gur, til, and coconut – we can make more experiments with Peethes. There is no fixed recipe for Peethe - generally a combination of the above ingredients with little imagination. For example, if sweet potatoes are not available, normal potatoes can be used and suji (semolina) will easily makeup for rice powder. The filling can be as varied as one wants. Desiccated coconut and gur filling is most common while khoya filling or dry fruits with gur filling will be just fine. Today I will write three of my mother’s recipes, in which we were allowed free hand.

. Rangaloo Pulee

1) Steam and mash sweet potatoes with one tbspoon cornflower or maida.
2) For the filling, mix khoya, crushed patalee gur, walnut, and raisins in a kadhai on slow fire. Add cardamom seeds.
3) Take a lump from the mash and shape into Peethes with the filling.
4) Heat white oil with little ghee and fry the Peethes till golden brown.
5) Prepare sugar syrup and soak the Peethes. Leave overnight. If Peethes appear dry, make some more syrup and pour over them.

. Patisapta

1) Make a thick batter with two cups of rice powder or maida, half cup suji, and milk. Add one pinch of salt and one tspoon sugar. Let it rest for half an hour.
2) Heat tawa, smear with ghee or white oil, pour a ladleful, and spread on tawa just as dosa batter.
3) When set, turn over, and fill in with any filling of your choice. If you want a more juicy effect, then use freshly desiccated coconut and crushed gur.
4) Fold like a roll. Patisapta can be stored in the fridge and heated on tawa just before serving.

. Rosh Pulee

1) You will need one cup each of the following: desiccated coconut, maida, sugar, and khoya or thickened milk.
2) Place all the ingredients on slow fire and when well mixed, let it cool and shape into Pulees.
3) Heat the milk and when it becomes thick, mix sugar and patalee gur. Drop the Pulees into the milk.

Please try the recipes and let me know the results.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Peethe I – Dudh Pulee

The month of Poush in the Bengali calendar brings the gift of Peethes/Pithes. In early childhood, I had heard stories from Didima about the Brahmin man, who brought home rice, gur (jaggery), and coconut and asked his wife to cook Peethes for him, while he went to the pond to take a quick dip. Each time the Brahmani (the wife) dropped a Peethe in the hot oil, it made a sizzling sound and the Brahman tied a knot on a tree. This way he kept count of the Peethes made. When he came home to eat the Peethes, he found one missing. He demanded an explanation from the Brahmani and came to know that his wife had given one Peethe to his daughters – Umno and Jhumno to share between them. This infuriated the Brahman so much that he decided to banish his daughters in the forest the very next day.... how cruel!!

Another story which we wanted to hear again and again from Ma was about the lobster who took a promise from a Brahmani when she came to the pond to wash rice to prepare Peethes – that she will give one Peethe to him. The Brahmani cooked delicious Peethes but she forgot her promise. The lobster came in the night to steal the Peethes but had to pay the price with his life….. so inhuman!!

The above stories tell one thing – how coveted things Peethes are! There are umpteen variations, such as Dudh Pulee, Rosh Pulee, Rangaloo Pulee, Bhapa Peethes, Patisapta, Kheer pulee, Moogsamalee, etc.

One scene is etched in my memory – when on the day of Poush Sankranti, Thakuma put a large pan containing milk on the clay burner (unoon), stirring the milk constantly. Binadi sat against the grinding stone preparing rice powder and Ma sat on a peedi, shaping the Pulees with a filling that Thakuma dropped into the boiling milk in batches. I sat mesmerized watching the whole process, my hands itching to make Pulees. But I was not allowed to try my hand, as they were to be offered to Thakuma’s Gods and Goddesses, first. The children could not be trusted, as they might be tempted to pop in a piece of coconut or patalee gur (date jaggery) into their mouth, thus desecrating the offering.

Later in life, when carrying on the tradition in my own home, I had no difficulty making Dudh Pulee, with satisfactory results. Here is the method of preparation of this great sweet dish.

Ingredients for Dudh Pulee
Rice powder – 2 cups
Patalee gur (jaggery made from dates)
Coconut scrapings
Ghee – 1 tpsp
Maida – 1 tpsp
Milk - 1 liter

Method of Preparation for Dudh Pulee
1) First, you will need to prepare the Pulee filling. Stir coconut scrappings and patalee gur in low heat in a kadhai till both are well mixed. Keep aside a handful of coconut scrappings to be used later.

2) Next, take the rice powder and add maida and ghee to it. Knead with warm water into a smooth dough. Make sure the dough is not too tight.

3) Now, take a lump from the dough, make a ball about the size of a small lemon, fill the center with the filling, and give the ball the shape of a Pulee (flat and longish). Take care to secure the folds. Keep aside.

4) Put the milk to boil. Add tejpatta, little sugar, and the coconut scrapping into the milk.

5) When the milk starts to boil, gently add the Pulees into the milk, stirring from time to time.

6) As the milk thickens and when the Pulees become soft, add a lump of patalee gur, sugar as per taste, and coconut scrappings. Cook till the patalee gur is dissolved. Your Dudh Pulee is ready. Hope you have fun making Dudh Pulee, all the best.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Khichuri with Begun fritters and Tomato Chatni

Khichuri is a popular dish of West बंगाल. The main ingredients are rice and pulses. Khichuri preparations can range from the most exotic to the most simple. The exotic variations are served during Durga Pujo and Saraswati Pujo as “bhog” (food blessed by the Gods) while the simplest preparations is made for the sick – as the ingredients are good for digestion. I present here the variation that is in-between these two – the one that is enjoyed by most Bengalis during a rainy day! As common lore goes, Khichuri is associated with a rainy day – you can enjoy it best in a “wet” atmosphere with the pitter-patter of the rain!! This is not to say that you cannot enjoy Khichuri otherwise. For more information about the Khichuri you can click here.

Khichuri goes with Chatni (a sweet preparation made of tomato) and Begun fritters/Beguni (brinjal fry).

Rice - 1 cup
Moong dal – 1/2 cup – washed and soaked
Masoor dal – 1/2 cup – washed and soaked
Potato – Medium sized pieces (fry a little)
Cauliflower – Medium sized pieces (fry until soft)
Carrots – Big pieces (fry a little)
Green peas
Spices – Tejpatta, Cloves (2), Black Cardamom, Dalcheeni, Garam Masala powder, Green Chilies (2 and slit), Jeera, Haldi, Salt, and Sugar
Ghee – 1 tbspoon

You have already fried the vegetables and kept aside. Lower heat and in the same oil add tejpatta, cardamom, cloves, a small piece of dalcheeni, and jeera. When you get the aroma, add the soaked moong dal. Fry a little and then add the soaked masoor dal and rice. Mix well. Now, add 4 cups of water, the fried vegetables (except cauliflower), green peas, haldi, garam masala powder, salt, and a little sugar. Pressure cook allowing one whistle. Open pressure cooker after 15 minutes. Now, add the fried cauliflower, slit green chilies, and ghee. Turn a little. Your Khichuri is ready!

Let me now run you through the accompaniments that make the Khichuri an experience to relish!kpip

Begun fritters or Beguni - preparation

Slice the brinjal thinly. Keep aside. Make a thick batter with besan and maida (equal proportion). Add salt according to taste. You can also add posto dana (poppy seeds) or white til, especially if cooking for special occasion. Dip the brinjal pieces in the batter and fry. I would advice to begin frying just before you are ready to serve because brinjal fritters kept for long becomes soggy.

Tomato Chatni - preparation

Cut tomato in small pieces and add ginger, garlic, a pinch of salt, and sugar as per your taste. Mash a little. Keep on slow fire. Keep mashing from time to time till tomato is pulpy. Now, heat one tbspoon of ghee with whole mustard and a slit green chilly, seperately. This is the tadka. Pour tomato over the tadka. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and your tomato Chatni is ready.

Enjoy a special meal and do let me know the result.

n Tit Bits
I take the opportunity to dispel a common perception about Bengali cooking with regard to sugar. Sugar is sprinkled in most Bengali cooking not because Bengalis have a “sweet tooth”. The reason is far more salty! Sugar balances or edges out the salt in the dish giving the preparation a sophisticated taste.


Introduction by Mesdi

How does it feel when you need a recipe to make a quick meal on days you perhaps are looking for change and you can’t think of anything to conjure? You flip through the recipes in your scrap book, but either you have never heard of the listed ingredients, or you don’t have them stocked in your kitchen cupboards or the recipe sounds too cholesterol-packed, or the method of preparation is so time consuming that you'd rather order from outside!

Have I just given words to a commonly felt emotion? If yes, you are not at the wrong place! I will try to add to your culinary senses with my motto on cooking – simplicity is the spice of life! I can assure you that it’s not only elaborate cooking – high on spices and oil – that can make food "tasty".

Allow me to take you on a journey of simple-everyday-healthy cooking. My recipes may or may not contain photographs, so I invite you all to imagine the look, feel, and aroma as I list the ingredients and describe the methods. Happy simple cooking!