Monday 30 April 2012

Kofi Chingri

No way that I can know if anyone was keeping a hawk's eye on me to see if I was actually posting two recipes a day to make up for the lost time in the Highlands. If you, who is reading this, were, I thank you. It is for you that I am doing my 3oth post in a 30-days month. While Feb was my best so far with 42 entries this leap year, March fell short by one post. In a 31-day month, I posted only 30, then consoled myself that the Feb performance should cover up for the one down! Our Food Stall started on Jan 26th this year. Ok, so on second thoughts, Jan was outstanding. 11 recipes in 6 days :) 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is the closest one can come to Bliss @ work. No one to report to, nowhere to go, no designer brands to flaunt. Work at your own pace, cook what you decide to, be your own photographer & blog designer, be your own time-keeper & own taster. I feel like Mr. Wemmick of Great Expectations! The satisfaction of seeing your own work online & the satiety on your family's face as they relish your cooking, the going places & reliving the experience as iThink about my yatra, far surpasses the satisfaction that an annual appraisal can ever give. Having been that side too, I know!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Had I been working for the papers, would I still be so content with writing? With somebody breathing down my neck to submit three articles in one day? Or pulling me up for a deadline not met? On an assignment to an exotic locale, would I be there in body and spirit or only half-heartedly, my primary concern being to produce a readable article that the editor passed without many cuts? Being sent to a wine-tasting sojourn, would I relish the drink or think of adjectives to describe it because my boss was friends with the vineyard owner? Rhetorical questions that make me smile. So here I am, doing my own thing, patting my own back & basking in my own glory when Rukma asks me, 'Is this your blog?'
                                                                                                  Work like you don't need the money; Love like you've never been hurt & Dance like you do when nobody's watching has come alive for me. For close to five years, I had this at my workstation & nobody understood the 1st part of this philosophy. Most never will. Not until they stop and take a hard look at their life. Juggle their priorities if need be. Smile a little more, frown a little less. See the good in others & not make back-biting their favourite past-time. 
                                                                                                        For now, with a heartfelt Thank You to all who have appreciated my write-ups & relished my recipes, I offer you this delicious prawn preparation from my mother's kitchenKofi Chingri. Prawns n Cauli. My veg frenz, please enjoy the aloo capsicum that was posted earlier today. 
1. 250 gms deskinned prawns 
2. 6-8 cauliflower florets
3. 2-4 medium-sized boiled potatoes- halved 
4. 1 medium onion- grated
5. 1 medium tomato- grated
6. 1 tsp ginger paste
7. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
8. 1/2 tsp garam masala
9. 1 tsp sugar
10. 1/4 tsp turmeric
11. 1 tsp ghee for flavour
12. Salt to taste
13. Refined oil to cook
1. Shallow fry gobi & keep aside.
2. Allow cumin seeds to crackle in hot oil. Add the sugar & let caramelize.
3. Fry the onion & ginger paste & boiled potato.

                                                                                                                                          4. Add tomato puree & turmeric and fry till oil leaves pan.
5. Add the prawns, stir lightly & add salt & water, for gravy.
6. Allow gobi & prawn to cook in gravy for 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
7. When gravy thickens, add ghee & garam masala powder, let simmer for 2 mins & remove from flame.

Kofi Chingri tastes sumptuous both with rice & roti. Try it today!

And keep visiting your Food Stall, guys. You are the ones that make it tick!

Lau Ghonto

Didi is wrecking havoc in joy Bangla by limiting the reading of newspapers & viewing of television channels. Power corrupts & absolute power corrupts absolutely, said some wise man. We were not really keen to know the universality of the hard-hitting phrase but now that it has come alive, it is nothing short of a mortifying experience for the hapless junta. Summer or not, we always knew we were the mango people but to keep squashing us like we were boiled lauki is doing injustice to our potential. It only takes enough repression for the aam aadmi to became khaas. And then there's no telling what havoc a frenzied nation can wreck on the powers- that-be. Don't we have examples the world over?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The cooling shukto effect seems to have waned & didibhai needs more to keep her hassled self in place. You are right Di, autocracy does work in Indian homes. We were brought up under the perennial surveillance of the merciless parental gaze. We could not read Mills & Boon without hiding it inside the geography book, watch any scene where the actors so much as came close to an embrace and were expected to display guilt if we were caught doing either. But that was when we were at an impressionable age. Or so it was felt. That M&Bs can improve your command over language or watching films help a child grow into an ace film-maker are repercussions that you saw only a decade later. But tumii bhabo dibhai, how can you monitor what adults read? Or watch? Isn't that taking governance to insane heights? And then it'll extend to you deciding for all what they should eat/drink, wear, who they should befriend. What will happen to the famous rock-baji in poshchim bongo? Or the famous bangali adda?  And if you spend so much time on deciding these, what will happen to your michhils, strikes, that have made you so popular? 
                                                                                                        For the love of your jhandebazi that is your USP, let the bewildered Kolkata-bashi be. Let the intellectuals read what they want to. What harm can an Anandabazar Patrika do that another daily can't ? How can marrying into another party spell less of a marital bliss? These are non-issues didi. How about shifting your attention to where it is really needed? Like eradication of poverty & unemployment? Like creating a safe state so that denizens can breathe in peace? Like allowing companies to thrive so that WB retains its brains and not lose it to other states/countries?
                                                                                                      Have some Lau Ghonto & bhaat. Lau(ki), very good for the eyes, will give you better vision. And the maachcher mudo, fish head, known to instill intelligence in our upper storey, will help you get back the lost oopar mala. So very needed in a leader. Ma has especially made this for you didi. Please relish. 

1. 1/2 lauki(bottle gourd) finely chopped
2. 1-2 fish head
3. 1/2 tsp cumin (zeera)
4. 1-2 bayleaf (tej patta)
5. 2-3 red chillies
6. 1/2 tsp ginger paste
7.  1/2 tsp bhuna masala (cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin & dry red chilli dry roasted & ground)
8. Salt to taste
9. Oil to cook
1. Pressure cook lauki with salt & a pinch of turmeric. Strain & keep aside.
2. Deep fry fish head with salt & a pinch of turmeric and keep aside.
3. In the same pan, splutter cumin seeds, tej patta & dry red chillies. Add the boiled lauki, fried fish head & ginger paste and let the ghonto cook till water dries.
                                                     4. Add salt, sugar & bhuna masala, cook for 2-3 mins & take off flame. 

Lau Ghonto is the first course of a traditional Bengali lunch.                                                                                                                                                                           Served with plain white rice, this subtly flavored dish sets the mood for the the maach, mangsho, chaatni & misti doi that follow. 

As Lakshmi says, no one can hold a candle to Bengali cuisine. And she is a Shetty from Mangalore, mind you :)
                                                                                                Please mend your ways Didi & we promise you our unflinching support. Let aamar  Bangla become the shonar bangla of yore....

Spicy Bell Peppers

In our childhood capsicum was synonymous with chowmein. We never ate capsicum, bell peppers, as I learnt a lot later, as a curry. With roti/chawal.  One it was a rare vegetable to come by. Two, it was more expensive than its counterparts. So capsi, as we fondly called it at home, maintained its place of honour as a Chinese ingredient. And there was this not-to-miss reason why we never thought of capsicum ki subzi as a meal option. Ma doesn't like capsicum! Buno buno gondo, she avers. A wild smell she attributes to this colourful veggie! Just the smell that those who love it, love it for. 
                                                                                                          It is not funny how children blindly imitate their parents. Buno buno gondo remained a fact of my life as well for a long long time. Till I started living in Delhi. The ostentatious Punjabi population there has three favourite food. Rajma chawal, kadhi chawal & Aloo Capsicum. The stuffed paranthas & lassi, of course, goes without saying. And those various rich halwa starting from gaajar to besan that you can give your life for! And gradually, before I even realized it, the Bong in me had started digging what she had always looked down upon! 
                                                                                                      Share my journey. And enjoy it :)
1. 2-3 capsicum diced
2. 1 large potato quartered
3. 1 large onion diced/chopped
4. 1 large tomato diced/chopped
5. 1-2 tsp vegetable masala(store bought)
6. Salt to taste
7. Oil to cook
1. Steam the capsicum & potato in the pressure cooker adding salt. Remove from heat before the 1st whistle. They should be cooked yet whole.

2. Saute onion till translucent. Add the tomato & fry till tomato cooks well.

3. Add the boiled aloo capsicum and fry till all ingredients mix well.
4. Sprinkle subzi masala, stir for 2-3 mins & remove from flame. 

Serve spicy bell peppers with roti. 
Fast to cook, good to eat, and an absolute visual treat. 
                                                                                                      Moral: Never look down upon any cuisine. It is sure to catch up with you when you least expect it to!
                                                                                                         "What are you having for lunch today?"  Mom on line. "Aloo Capsi." And there was a long silence at the other end....

Sunday 29 April 2012


This has been in the pipeline for a while. When Lalo gave me this recipe, our household was in a strictly vegetarian mode. While we went green with a vengeance, the chicken froze elsewhere. Till the family rebelled that enough is enough & that they are not trying to acquire Bebo's size zero nor do they have any Big B dreams of saving the planet. Which I think is a non-noble thing to say at a critical time like this. But what with Fb flooding your mind with keep-the-planet-green, save-the-plants, eat-chicken slogans, it is a tough call if you are the sole vegetarian in a family of meat-eaters. Made tougher by the fact that UK treats eggs as vegetarian. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In my early days in London, I was so full of hash browns & baked beans that resorting to the 'vegetarian' b'fast of eggs seemed a viable option. As I scrambled my way back to the non-veg zone, the family waited for me to poach in full- throttle. If the egg, why not the chicken. If the chicken, what gunah has the mutton done. If chicken & mutton, obviously fish, after all machche bhhate bangali is the Bong way. Frankly, I feel at sea because there is no stopping the family from being a hurdle in your path to Nirvana. After all it is all about loving one's family, so says Karan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Meanwhile as we moved from English to Cornish to Scottish to Welsh breakfast, the egg remained a constant. Along with the breads, the cereals, the baked beans & the hash browns. The one thing that changed was the shape of the mushrooms. Each place had the mushrooms cooked differently, and all tasted yum. That was a blessing because we remembered our yatra with the kind of mushroom we'd eaten for breakfast. Some of those mushrooms I made in my own kitchen but as Richa says, there are some things you shouldn't make at home. Apart from giving the home-maker some respite, this also ensures that there is some charm left when you go out to eat or call in. If you cook everything at home & do it well, you will never be able to enjoy eating out. Point there!
                                                                                                          So I spare the mushrooms & attack the chicken instead :) This Himachali Chicken has a  sizzling smoky flavour that brings the family rushing to the table. As I make this today, my mind does a fast-track. How about replacing the chicken with a veggie & following the same style of cooking with the same spices! Won't it come out equally tantalizing? Will tell you once I've been there, done it. For now, don your apron & chef's hat. It's Hail Himachal all the way! 
1. 1 kg chicken
2. 1 cup curd
3. 1 large onion chopped
4. 1 slice ginger chopped
5. 5-6 cloves garlic
6. 1 tsp cumin seeds (zeera)
7. 1 tsp fenugreek (methi)
8. 3-4 dry red chillies
9. 1 tsp whole garam masala
10. Salt to taste
11. Oil to cook

1. Dry roast spices 6-9 and keep in the grinder.
2. Dry roast onion, ginger & garlic, mix with the roasted spices & grind to paste.

3. Deep fry chicken. Add the ground masala & fry till oil leaves pan.

                                                                             4. Add dahi & salt & let cook till chicken is tender.

Serve hot with plain rice or roti/naan. 
                                                                                                     The roasted masala gives the dish a bhuna flavor that lingers in your memory long after you have finished eating....  

Thank you for a fantabulous Sunday lunch, Lalo!

Saturday 28 April 2012

Mango Tango

There is problem with writing a food blog. People hesitate to invite you over. They fear that you will go there like a critic & while you may not voice your opinion, you are making a mental note of what could-have-been. And sooner, than later, your observation will make its way into your post. With names/locales changed to protect identity! An occupational hazard this sure is. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When Leela invited us for dinner last night, she made all this known with her customary innocence. I assured her I love the very idea that someone is cooking for me & I relish that food with the gratefulness of the glutton. Whether she was convinced or not is her thing. I know for myself that I thoroughly enjoyed the food last evening. The butter chicken was like that of the best hotel, the chhole was cooked just right and such perfect payesh, kheer, I hadn't had in a long time. What made the evening delightful was our dessert being served to us before the food cz that's when we relish it more! Dhiri teased her that while I am complimenting her food on her face, Leela should actually look out for what goes in the blog. Because that is where the real feedback lies. He had an unmistakable glint in his eyes when he said that to her. I dug into my spring roll and pretended not to notice. 
                                                                                                  After last night's dinner, I wake up this morning with thoughts of good food. Open my mailbox & see food all over. Sheetal had sent across her Kashmiri Dum Aloo recipe with pics, Ma sent this tangy Mango Chutney, my inbox was flooded and I was not complaining!
                                                                                                    This chutney is like zindagi. Kuch khatti kuch meethi. Come summer and you see most Bengali households make this for their lunch. Try this before the mangoes start ripening. Thank you Ma for making this. Thank you Tuli for clicking these.
1. 1 big raw mango(see pic for cut)
2. 1-2 dry red chillies
3. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
4. 2 tsp mustard + posto(khus khus) paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
5. Sugar to taste
6. Salt as required 
 1. Boil mangoes with salt & turmeric powder. Strain & keep ready.

                                                                               2. Allow mustard seeds & dry red chillies to crackle in hot oil. Add the boiled mango & saute for 2 mins.

                                                                             3. Add the mustard posto paste, sugar & water and bring chutney to boil. Add 1/2 tsp salt to equalize taste. 

Serve when cool.

This sweet n sour chutney has the power to make you salivate five thousand miles away from home. Observe your tongue as you read this!

Thank you for the lovely dinner Leela. You are a champ. Dhiri is feeling better I hope.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo

I am surrounded by good cooks. But to be a good cook & to help another proceed on the path of culinary fulfillment are two distinct qualities. Like you may be a gold medallist in your specialized field but can you impart that knowledge to another? More importantly, do you want to? When there is no remuneration involved? When there is nothing involved? That's what distinguishes ordinary from its extra-prefixed sibling. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The league of extraordinary people do things for the sheer love of it. Not for anything that comes out of the act. Of course here the need is greater. The need to feel good about the Self is the most potent need of all. Bro. Chris uploads school activity pics on fb because photography is his passion. If that pleases the parents, makes them feel more connected to their ward who are in a faraway boarding and generates overall happiness, that is just a by-product of Brother's passion. Is he doing it thinking of the dividends? No. He is doing it because he likes to. Because he wants to. The energy of any passion is so strong that it will, inevitably, bring returns. To say that the act was undertaken for profit would be myopic. 
                                                                                                    Sheetal is a good cook apart from being good many-things. Recently conferred with the Midwestern (MPA) Research Award, this scholar not only finds time to cook, which she says is like meditation for her, but also has the enthusiasm to click step-by-step pictures of the Kashmiri Dum Aloo, for our Food Stall. Cooking is like art for me, says the prodigy. The more you experiment, let go, and listen to your inner self, the better it turns out to be.  As you try this delectable dish friends, follow our Head Chef's suggestion. Just let go & listen to that voice within. It never lies....   
                                                                                                        This dish is ready in less than 30 minutes including preparation.

1. 3 medium sized potatoes (cut into 1 inch big pieces)
1 cup plain yogurt 
3. 1.5 tbsp saunf (aniseed) powder 
4.  1 tsp hing(asafoetida) powder
5.  1 tsp ginger powder (saunth)
6.  2 tsp dhania(coriander) powder
7.  3 tsp Kashmiri Mirch for colour 
8.  Red chilli powder  as preferred 
9.  6 cloves - ground
10. 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
11 . 1 cup water for gravy
12. Salt- to taste
13. Cooking oil- mustard/canola/any vegetable except olive oil
 1. Deep fry potatoes with a pinch of hing and powdered clove until golden brown. Keep aside on absorbent paper. 

2. In a separate pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, add the rest powdered clove, hing, all the spices, and fry lightly.
Don't let the spices burn.
Add the saunf powder and salt towards the end.

3. Add  yogurt and water to the spices and let simmer for 30 secs.
Add extra watery if you want more gravy. 

4. Add fried potatoes to the gravy, cover wok & simmer for 2-3 mins. 

Turn off  stove and let Dum Aloo rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve hot with plain white rice.

Chef Speaks: Kashmiri food tastes best when spicy and eaten with fingers! The potatoes have a distinct taste even when you mix it in the gravy because of the hing and clove in the oil while frying.
Feel the unique flavours of the aloo and gravy tango in your mouth with the plain rice! Enjoy!

Thank you for the recipe Sheetal. I am overwhelmed.