Saturday, 30 June 2012

Kolar Khosha Baanta

Fighting the flab seems to be the story of everybody's life these days. Well, almost everybody's. Intellectuals think of how to minimize the ozone hole, solve world hunger & mesmerize the world with their music. And while they are at it, they don't mind trimming their tyres! 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Inayat has his hands full with Afroze, his band. Being the lead vocalist, he has his daily riyaaz, his performances, his interviews with the media and his public appearances to make. And, as a bachelor, his own food to cook. Which, as anybody can see, is no mean feat. Where does one fit in the pranayam? Erratic schedule, shoots in various locales, no fixed timings for anything, ab inn sabme fit kaise rahein? Discipline yourself seems to be the only mantra that works. The world looks up to a disciplined person. Their lifestyle, their time management, all become food for thought for the rest of us. But how long does one only admire? When does one start to imbibe? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer my friend lies in the will
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Kareena does fifty suryanamaskars every morning regardless of which part of the world she is shooting in. You don't get a body like that by gorging on pizza & burger. Closer home, Ro, a self-confessed 'aunty' became a diva by making lifestyle changes. She replaced her regular  milk & sugar tea with green, the evening patties with a low- cal, high-fibre fruit, the kaju biscuit with a digestive. When others reach for their aerated drink, she sips her nimbu pani. The result is the local tailor getting extra business for altering all those (by-now) extra large clothes to fit her fitter avatar. And the admiring glances that would make a teenager blush, comes with the package. 
                                                                                                        Continuing with our health food awareness, I present this starter for you. The first course in a Bengali lunch, not a starter that you can eat by itself, really. Kolar(banana's) Khosha(peel) Baanta(paste) may not sound glamorous to most but try it with plain rice and see for yourself what wonders this fruit can do in its various forms. You did not throw away the boiled green banana peel after the Kola Bhaja, did you? Good! Now is the time to put it to nutritious use. 
                                                                                         Ingredients:[serves 2]
1. Boiled peel of 1 green banana
2. 1/2 tbsp posto (khus khus)
3. 1/2 tsp kalonji/ panch phoron
4. 1 tsp mustard oil
5. Green chilli as preferred
6. 1/2 tsp sugar
7. Salt to taste

1. Soak posto & keep aside for 10 mins.
2. Grind boiled banana peel, posto, green chilli & salt to a smooth paste.

3.  Heat mustard oil and allow kalonji/panch phoron(whichever you are using) to crackle.
4. Add the peel paste & sugar to the seasoning and mix well till water dries.                               

Ma adds freshly grated coconut to kola baanta. I added posto cz I did not have that at home. Replace posto with coconut and get an equally delightful dish. Eat with plain white rice. Cook rice in an open vessel(never in the pressure cooker) & drain the starch please! Use the starch on your cottons, don't allow it to gather around your waistline. 
                                                                                                          See that deep bowl of lentil in the pic(right)? Weight-watchers, watch this space for that recipe :) And while you are waiting, immerse yourself in the soulful music of Afroze.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Kola Bhaja

I cannot seem to have enough of Swaran. Think of this girl & she is sure to pop up either on Gtalk or on Skype. There will come a time, say The Books, when people will not even need technology to interact. They will connect by thought. Till that happens, technology is not too bad either. In the pre-tech era, we often spoke of telepathy, when someone we had been thinking about, dropped in when least expected. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The power of thought moves mountains. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, following the movie by the same name, beautifully captures the magic of these vibrations of the mind. The secret is to ask-believe-receive. Simplistic though it may sound, it has worked for millions around the world. Send out a thought/desire to the Universe, believe that you will get your heart's calling and receive it gratefully when it is given to you, without being incredulous about your actually having gotten it! Intend-Declare-Detach says Peter Baksa, investigative journalist & author of The Point of Power. Intend an outcome, declare a plan of action and trust the Forces, detach yourself from your dream and have faith, that the cosmos will look into your request.
                                                                                                      How many of you have thought of the raw, unripe, green banana in the last one week? Summers in India, you wanted something light, green banana won't need too many spices, it has benefits both for dieters & diabetics, I must buy some the next time I go to buy vegetables. You've been thinking about it lately and bingo, you see this in today's menu! See the power of thought :) Kola(banana, Bangla) Bhaja(fry) is one of the easiest & yummiest dishes that is a favourite with fussy eaters too. High in fibre, cooked in very less oil, Kola Bhaja can be eaten with dal & rice/roti or just as a snack, instead of that oily samosa.
                                                                                                       Ingredients:[serves 2]
1. 1 green banana
2. 1 potato
3. Red chilli powder as preferred
4. Salt to taste
5. 1-2 tsp oil(refined/mustard/olive)
1. Cut the banana & potato(see pic) and boil in the pressure cooker adding salt, for 2 whistles.
2. When the boiled ingredients cool, peel them & cut into cubes.
                                                                                                                                                 Tip: Retain the boiled banana peel, that'll be our next recipe :)

3. Warm oil, add salt & chilli powder and neatly lay out the boiled & cubed banana and potato. Let fry on high flame for 4-5 minutes.
4. Gently turn side & let fry for the same time. 

Remove from flame & serve hot.  

                                                            This recipe is good to go as described. Add bhuna zeera/dhaniya/garam masala powder if you want that extra dazzle. 

As a chef, I'd suggest, always try the original recipe first. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Palak Paneer

Tring. Trriiinng.
"Hello, Deepak! Palak hai tumhare pass?"
"Umm, palak." (Subdued tone). " Sorry, lagta hai galat number lag gaya."
"Aap kahan se bol rahi hain?"
"Kaun bol rahin hain aap?"
" Sorry, hamare vegetable vendor ke naam se yeh number stored tha."
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Disconnect call before the namesake drags you to court for harassment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I finally got through to the right Deepak at the third try. Apart from Deepak Trainer & Deepak Transport, there are three more Deepaks in my phone book. After the above fiasco, our saviour's name has been edited to Deepak Veggy. Saves the world some trouble. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Minto Bhaiya was coming to dinner and spinach was a must-buy. The scorching summer has made saag a rarity. The small vendors do not keep it nowadays because they wither sooner than they can be sold. The supermarkets have some sad looking ones & the concept of frozen vegetables is still catching up in the East. Any day we'd like to buy it fresh from the local mandi. The flavour and texture of the fresh produce is simply unbeatable. And the swad, kya kehne!

The precious palak was finally found in the Monday mandi close by. Paanch rupye mein teen gaddi feels like heaven. And no conversions to be done now! A quick call to Lalo to refresh my memory and before long the palak leaves became palak paste. Read on for the Palak Paneer recipe friends. And in summers, don't leave your buying to the last day. There is a palak crunch in the market because of the intense heat.                                                                                                                                                                                              Ingredients:  
1.  Palak/Spinach - roughly chopped  
2.  1 cup paneer/cottage cheese cubes  
3.  1 medium onion- finely chopped
4.  1 cube ginger- roughly chopped
5.  7-8 small cloves of garlic  
6.  Chopped green chilli - as preferred  
7.  1 tomato- finely chopped/puree 
8.  1 tsp garam masala powder
9.  1-2 tsp ghee/butter (for garnish)   
10. Salt to taste
11.  Refined oil – to cook
1. Add salt & boil spinach, ginger, garlic & chillies in the pressure cooker for 7-8 minutes/two whistles.
2. When the mixture cools, grind to a smooth paste.    


                                                                                     3. Saute the chopped onion. Add the chopped tomato and fry well. 
4. Add the palak paste and let simmer on medium flame for at least 10 

5. Add the paneer cubes, simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add garam masala powder & ghee/butter and remove from flame. 

Serve hot with roti/naan/rice. 
Garnish with fresh cream for the dhaba taste. 
Go easy if on diet. 

And save numbers with titles. Abid Fish, Alok Dahi, 
Anil Pathlab, Acquasure Manoj, Asif Biryani....

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Shada Chicken

When Sohini & Rohini meet, the result is Shada(white, Bangla) Chicken. Inspired by the movie Kaminey, Sohini became Fohini which further condensed to Fo. By the rule of the rhyme, the latter started being called Ro. Fo, Ro & I worked in the same office when time was. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Fo was to drop by yesterday. In her honour, we bichaoed the reddest chaadar that we have to replicate the red carpet; then drew the curtains to diminish its jazz and give the house a cool, muted ambience; and made summery dishes like tok daal (masoor dal with raw mango), aloo posto, mango chutney & the like. The cooler decided to konk off on Friday night, much to P's embarrassment and having ACs in the house is as good as not having any because this is Ghaziabad where you have powercuts for atleast 8 hours. And that's a kind estimate. Because on unkind days you have it for 14. Like an errant child, you know it will play up when there are guests.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I had strict instructions not to cook because she would come and make lunch. Which seemed doable till 11.30. The clock ticks away, the host in me panics, it is past 12.30, no signs of the head chef, 12.45 the door-bell rings with the impatience of Sangma and you know it is Fo. She comes in with the exuberance of spring and gets a surprise package for lunch. Rohini! We are all meeting exactly a year later. Hugs & hellos over, the chef is all ready to cook, (she has carried raw chicken to cook and a pair of change to get into the act) when she is told lunch is ready, can we please eat? 'What?! Why did you cook? Did I not tell you that I'll come & cook?' etc is told to me loudly, reprimandingly. With the docility of  a big sister, I quietly listen to the rant and start frying the beguni. Not too summery, this one, but goes well with the tok daal.
                                                                                                        Ma has learnt this Shada Chicken recipe from a cookery show on Zee Bangla. Because there is no haldi used, it goes by the name of white. While she saw this a while ago, she is yet to make it. Mother passed me the recipe when I asked her for something new & cook-friendly. You don't want to spend too long in the kitchen in a 43°C plus temperature, guests or no guests!
                                                                                                      The first morsel of the non-veg course and Fo goes 'yummm'. So I tell Ma that her dish is a hit. Thank you. 
1. 1 kg chicken- deskinned & cut
     For marinade:
2. 1 medium onion- roughly chopped
3. 1 small garlic- peeled
4. 1 small cube ginger- roughly chopped
5. 2-3 tsp coriander powder
6. Red chilli powder/ground pepper/green chilli paste- as preferred
7. 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp mustard oil
8. 1-2 tsp vinegar
9. 1-2 tsp sugar
10. Salt to taste
11. 1 cup water(optional- only if you want more gravy)
1. Grind onion, ginger, garlic, green chilli to fine paste.
2. Mix all the ingredients and let chicken marinate for at least an hour. 
     Go back to sleep. When you wake up,
3. Put the marinaded chicken in a non-stick wok, cover it and let it cook on medium flame for 20-25 mins.
4. Remove from flame when chicken is tender and oil has left the wok. 

Very yum, low fat, not too much masala, no frying involved, goes well 
with both rice & roti. Jeene ko aur kya chahiye?!

                                  The pyaz kachodi that Ro got became our dinner; Fo's raw chicken is still in the fridge, demanding immediate attention; the giant rajbhogs temptingly peep out of the shelves and ask to be eaten and somebody in my house wears a smug look that only a stacked store brings about....

Thank you for coming over Gurlz. You made my day.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Summer Sensation

Don't go by the bunch of grapes on the glass tumblers. This is not grape sorbet. 
There's a thing about lichis. You need to buy them in a bunch. You do so happily, the luscious red is so inviting. And then you can only eat those many at one shot. By the next day, the fruit invariably undergoes transformation. The delightful hue gives way to a pale shade of brown. The ah-so-fresh lichi fragrance is replaced by a one-day-stale smell. If you leave the by-now-not-so-tempting summer sensation for one day more, rest assured nobody in the house will touch it. So what does the Lady do ? Peel it, deseed it, churn it, cool it, serve it. Just like that :) 
                                                                                                          We normally buy lichi squash off the rack. Make your own thing at home now. With all the leftover lichis you have. If you have them, that is! Feel free to use the just-plucked ones if you so desire. I wouldn't. Not with the latter. They are to be peeled & sensuously savoured. The succulence makes any other alternative impossible to imagine! 

What you need:
1. Leftover Lichis- peeled, deseeded
2. Sugar to taste
3. Water -1 glass per 3 lichis
                                                                                                                                                     What you need to do:
1. Blend lichi & sugar well.
2. Add water & give it a final whip.
3. Strain juice to separate pulp from clear syrup. 

Refrigerate & serve chilled. 

                                                  Wowing your guests was never so easy! Anyway, isn't it always the family that plays hard to please....


Biryani Bemisal

From being a tribute to Pronob da, this post decides to follow its heart and get my friends into it instead. When the big hullaballoo about the right Presidential candidate happened, there were speculations, conjectures & communal insinuations. M&M were together one day and walked their paths the next. Who betrayed whom, who ends up eating the humble pie, how can one Bong not support the other etc were on all channels & dailies. Just the kind of fodder that increases TRPs. And the nation lapped it all up. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        One leading newspaper interviewed Mr Mukherjee's daughter about, with other things, how helpful is the future Prez around the house. The reply was one that resonates with many an Indian male. 'Baba is old- school. He cannot so much as pour a glass of water for himself. If my mother doesn't feed him, he'll be famished.' What is it with these men, one wonders. In an era when we are thinking of holidaying on the moon, there are still people who think cooking is a woman's domain! Is it not enough that she has broken the glass ceiling and is holding positions of power? And this is across classes. The fairer gender has penetrated into the male bastion. They are at the filling stations, behind the wheels, controlling traffic, bringing criminals to book, investing in property and running nations. And she plays home-maker and cook. What else do Ma Durga's ten hands personify! By the same token, shouldn't the man get off that pedestal and help her around the house ? Gone is that format of society with strict demarcations of gender-defined roles. This is the 21st century bhai log!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And it is not just older men who take pride in not knowing. There are youngsters too. They post sad messages on Fb to get some sympathy votes because mommy dearest has gone to her mayka for ten days. So what happens to the pampered boys? They butter their bread and feel that's some feat accomplished, ask for suggestions on how to scramble eggs and not burn the dal, and generally feel sorry for themselves till mother returns. A word of caution, young men. Your mother, being a mother, will put up with this clinging. Please do not expect the other important woman in your life to be half as tolerant. She will, in all probability, be a modern, educated girl, earning as you do, fighting the odds in an urban setup, coming home late from work, exhausted as you are and will, in no way, be in a position to cater to your chauvinistic demands of pani le ke aao and pair daba do.
                                                                                                        As you make a mental note of investing in a body massager and a long pipe that goes from the filter to your mouth, how about learning this simplest biryani on earth? No jhanjhat in making this one. No need to make four other things. Just Biryani Bemisal & raita and you are good to go. Delicious to eat & deliciously simple to make. And just think, if your jam & bread pic could invite so many 'likes' & comments, what will this dish do! Get ready for stardom, mumma's boy. And let go of her apron-strings.  
                                                                                                        Ingredients:[serves 3-4]
1. 1/2 kg chicken- medium sized pieces
2. 1 large onion chopped
3. 1 large potato- quartered
4. 1 - 1 1/2 cup long-grained rice- washed and strained
5. 3-4 tsp biryani masala
6. A handful of cashew nut & raisins
7. 1-2 tsp sugar
8. 2- 2 1/2 cups water
9. Salt to taste
10. Ghee/Refined Oil to cook.
1. In 1tbsp oil, add 1 tsp sugar, let caramalize and fry the potatoes. Keep aside.
2. In the same oil, fry chopped onion, add the chicken, biryani masala, sugar & salt and fry for 7-8 minutes till oil leaves the pan.

3. Add the fried potatoes and water, close the cooker and give the chicken 2 whistles on medium flame.
When Step 2 is happening, parallely,

4. In 1-1 1/2 tbsp of ghee, fry the washed rice with 1 tsp biryani masala and the dry fruit, on medium flame.

4.  After 2 whistles, when the chicken is cooked, let the cooker open naturally. Do not force open. 

Add the fried rice, more water (water level should be one-inch above the rice level), check for salt and close the lid.

One whistle and take off the flame. Let cooker open naturally.
Mast biryani tayyar. 

Even a Kolkata boy, who eats the best biryani in his town, will compliment you on this tasty, non-oily version. Having served this to one, I know! Thank you, Nishant. Now can you stop cribbing about the sultry Kolkata weather!
                                                                                              Pronob da is gone past the stage where he can learn this. Anyway he has to head the nation. Charti khani kotha naki?! Kshitij, you are still young. And mom may plan her next vacation soon :) Happy cooking, dude!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Aam Baat

Give that poor guy a break, yaar. Leaving your 8-yr old child behind in the pub is not as criminal as the holier-than-Thou junta makes it appear! Many a parent has done it atleast once in their parenthood. Just because the culprit is the British PM cannot make the same offence graver than if a lesser mortal did it. And which child wouldn't love being left behind in the pub? There are huge screens all over, the ambience is warm and the staff hospitable. Unlike pubs in India where the emphasis is more on drinking, the ones in UK are family haunts. They spill over with patrons standing outside on the streets as weekend approaches. You wanna chillax after a long week? Hit the pub with your colleagues on Friday evening & stay there beyond midnight if you so wish.   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The pubs serve the customary drinks & have dining on the menu. More often than not, there are special activities on various days to attract crowds. Quiz one evening(the winner gets free dinner), a film screening on the other while a local 'star' performer crooning to the audience on the third. These public houses have a cosy, non-intrusive atmosphere that is apt for all kinds of gathering. And mostly, you don't get shot if you refuse to serve drinks to anyone after closing hours. How did little Nancy feel when she came back from the restroom to see her family missing? For a while she must have breathed easy without security breathing down her neck! In fifteen minutes Dad David was anyway there to collect her. 
                                                                                                              P got more time to himself when his dad took him to buy fodder for the cattle, asked him to get the fodder weighed while he refilled gas & came back. The then-child P realized, after the stipulated time had elapsed, that ho na ho, papa mujhe bhul gaye hain. So he collected the fodder, hailed an auto and reached home. Dad was in the verandah, spectacles in place, newspaper in hand, engrossed in what was going on in the world. He looked up as he heard the gate open & remarked aa gaye to his son, quite forgetting that they had gone out together! The son, now grown up and following his father's footsteps in the absent-mindedness department, chuckles every time he remembers the episode. Take a chill pill, is what he suggests to the whiners club. Have some cold Mango Shake to beat the heat. You just need some milk(even watery will do) & a a couple of ripe mangoes(sour? no probs!) to keep you cool.
                                                                                                                                                    Ingredients:[serves 2]
1. 2 glass cold milk
2. 1-2 ripe mango/pulp
3. 1-2 tsp honey(use sugar if you are trim :))
1. Put all the ingredients in the blender & give it a whip.
2. Delicious mango shake is ready!

                      Refrigerate and serve if you want it more cold. The cold milk anyway keeps your delicious drink at the right temperature.
                                                                                                        Not everybody can afford a cattle just because the milkman delivers pani wali doodh. Make as much mango shake as you want. Or change the milkman. I am doing the first :)

Friday, 8 June 2012


Hello People! Missed you. Missed writing for you. Did not miss the cooking though. (Which home-maker has ever escaped that!) We landed in India on Tuesday & Sunday was P’s birthday. Not his fault really. Not mine either that I have pampered him & made him expect surprises on his special day. So much so that the gent has the gall to lament aaj khali khali sa lag raha hai the day after ! And then he has some more treasure hunt to do the next day so that the khalipan doesn’t overwhelm. All this in the name of love is very fine & mushy in good times. Not if you have come back to a locked-for-almost-a-year-house, been greeted by the pigeon family & their mites & taken care not to tread on their freshly-laid eggs. And we are not talking dust & spiders. Thanks to Manju that was taken care of to a welcoming degree.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A good friend did promise a deal but after a journey that lasts forever, you may not have the energy to call up friends. Good or otherwise. Correction there. Jim I did call. Nobody makes cakes like his bakers. And that they have three branches in the NCR, and one in my vicinity, is such a blessing. The Chocolate Excess arrived, I managed to tuck it away & sat glumly. The gent had heard the doorbell. ‘Who’s it?’ ‘The neighbour,’ say I. And try to look away. His hand reaches the fridge door. The glee on his mug is child-like. ‘Kya aaya?’ There is a lot of food exchange that happens thanks to our friendly neighbours. It was almost a given that the first few days, somebody will bring you some meal. I cannot shout out a kuch nahi for fear of raising suspicion. The mild kuch nahi with that dead-giveaway of a smile makes him open the fridge. The big Baker Street box transforms the smile to a laugh accompanied by a joyous shout. And I know I have dug my grave a little deeper. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        What did remain a surprise was the lunch thrown for friends & big bro. The cleaning spree happened full-throttle, the maid decided to remain absent, the birthday boy had to run errands & clean & withstand frayed nerves that were unsolicited. By midday he was ready to collapse. In front of the TV. To an enthusiastic query of, ‘hey happy b’day, how are you feeling?’ came the energy-depleted , ‘tired’, response. ‘Even I am tired. The only difference is it’s your b'day so you don’t feel like working,’ say I. ‘Isn’t that reason good enough?!’ leaves me confounded. And smiling :) ‘Not really. When there are only two people in the house, both have to share work. Quote unquote’, leaves him zipped. And smiling.
                                                                                                            Payesh/Kheer, rice cooked in thickened milk, is a traditional Bong’s way of celebrating an auspicious day. As a mod Bong-Bihari duo, we have the cake and the payesh. And call the latter, kheer :) That the payesh was a super-duper hit was proved when bhai wanted a second help. How a chef loves serving the foodie! The variation of the kashmiri chicken found an appreciative audience while the paneer capsi jalfrezi had to be content on the sole veggie’s plate. Sigh! The dahi vada gave the hot lunch a cool quotient & all-in-all it was a great celebration that rounded off with the friends suggesting Rowdy Rathore and we happily obliging. And amidst the nimbu pani, excess chocolate & camaraderie, you realize what you miss in a foreign land....
1.  2 ltr full-cream milk
2.  ½ cup broken rice- washed & soaked
3. 1 cup sugar
4.  ¼ cup condensed milk(optional)
5.  A handful kaju, kishmish
6. ½ tsp cardamom powder/4-5 whole cardamoms
1. Boil the milk on sim to thicken it to 3/4th its amount. Add the whole cardamoms now. (If using powdered elaichi, leave for later)
2.   Add the soaked rice & allow cooking in the thickened milk. Keep stirring periodically to check that no lumps are formed/ rice does not stick to the vessel-bottom.
3.  Add the dry fruit and stir on.
4.   When rice is cooked, add sugar & condensed milk(if using) and mix well. 
5.  Add cardamom powder, mix properly & remove from flame.
                                                                                                                                                Serve payesh at room temperature. Cold may make the rice harden. Hot is a no-no. You don't want loosies!

Happy Birthday, P. No surprises next year. Please!!!